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Great article covering Jad Abumrad's talk at AAAS about science communication.

Some highlights:

“The highest thing that we can accomplish as a science communicator is not to be precise—although we should be,” said Abumrad. “It’s not to convey how much you know—although you should know that stuff. It is simply to share the discovery with the person across the table.”

In his address, Abumrad, a 2011 MacArthur Foundation recipient, talked about how he copes with—and embraces—“the strange tension that exists when you try to talk about science to nonscientists.” He compared his job to that of an island hopper, finding a way to move between nonscientific islands and scientific islands where, isolated by their expertise, the citizens have evolved a separate language that defines their world.

The episodes illustrated some of the science communication goals of the Radiolab team: to find vivid, non-jargony nouns to stand in as the characters in a scientific story, to bring physicality to science explanations, and to offer experiences rather than explanations to their audience.

Abumrad said science communicators too often focus on the recitation of science’s latest discoveries, a tack that he said “leaves the public weary” because there are always new and sometimes conflicting findings. He and his colleagues at Radiolab prefer to focus instead on the edge of what scientists have just learned, and all the unknowns and questions brought into relief by the new knowledge. “That’s where the action is, that’s where the interesting stories are,” he said.

“I would guess that every scientist who’s being honest will tell you that that’s where they live,” said Abumrad, who then played a recording of a conversation with his biologist mother, agreeing on this point. “They spend a lot of time looking out at all the questions, and all the things they don’t know yet, and they spend a lot of time being lost.”

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