Commander Hadfield returns to Earth tonight. Hadfield, I’m sure your loved ones are happier when you’re safe and sound on Earth, but many of us wish you’d stayed out in space longer so we could keep learning and sharing your joy up there.
This is what outreach can be. More and more I’ve come to think that the best and coolest science gigs are just too precious to waste on people who aren’t outright ambassadors for the greatest things science has to offer: a sense of wonder and joy in the universe, and the beauty of curiosity and knowledge.
1. Place all the blame for everyone else’s inability to understand or appreciate your work on inadequate science education. You shouldn’t have to change the way you communicate with people of different academic background from you. No one is going to understand or appreciate what you do until they know as much about it as you do, and people who don’t know as much about your science as you do should go back to school and learn it.
2. If you are forced to explain your science to a non-scientist, explain it in the most condescending tone possible to make sure the person understands that a) s/he is stupid and b) s/he is wasting your time. People who want to ask you questions about your work should read every paper you’ve ever written before they talk to you so they can ask you more intelligent questions.
3. Socialize only with other scientists. If you somehow find yourself at a mixed party, ignore the non-scientists and talk with only the scientists. Remember, any social situation where you’re not talking about research with another researcher is a waste of your time and intellect.
4. You know the business staff, office managers, administrative assistants, project managers, IT? All those people who do all the trivial tasks that are a waste of your time and scientific talent? Don’t talk to them except to complain about something that’s pissing you off. Always demand that they drop everything else and fix it right away so you can get back to your science without delay. Your science is more important than anything else they could possibly be doing.
5. All those people who aren’t doing what the (your) studies recommend? Point out that their belief and values systems are total bullshit and that they should stop being stupid and get with the objective evidence. Science is truth*.
6. Dismiss any sort of story or presentation about science that is not as dense, dry and technical as a graduate school seminar as “dumbed down”. Because you know, only dumb people like that simplistic popular science crap.
* Except when it’s tainted by faulty methodology, unconscious bias and deliberate data manipulation.