A scientist carries out rigorous experiments for years and finally completes a breakthrough research. Eureka! A new invention, solution or product is developed or invented. Series of papers are published in high impact journals and presentations made at prestigious conferences. End of the day – the breakthrough is made known to the audiences – the peers.
The scientists feel the job is done and but now the whining starts:
- Why there was no media interest in that research?
- Why industry does not come forward to bring the research to the market?
- Why the public does not appreciate the work of scientists?
- Why the younger generation is not interested in becoming a scientist or in pursuing other careers in science?
- Why the politicians do not give importance to research funding?
Scientists and their institutes need to understand that justice to their research is not done till it is communicated to a wider audience and not just among their peers.
A simple search in the universities’ and research institutes’ websites in Malaysia hardly yield results on the outcome of their research. The front page is often adorned with news about events and collaboration.
A paradigm shift is needed to change the culture. Scientists must understand the importance of communicating their research to industry players, legislators, private donors, media, and the general public.
Physicist John Ziman argues that you are not really doing “science” unless you widely disseminate your work.
It has not become a culture for Malaysian scientists to have blogs to talk about their research. While, publishing scientific papers is central to their professional growth, publishing lay-level articles in media has never crossed their mind as their responsibility.
The Corporate Office in universities and research institutes do not place priority in reaching to the wider public.
With my passion in science communication, I hope to see a change in this culture. The Petri Dish – the first popular science newspaper in Malaysia, is now allocating two pages for a section called ResearchDigest. We intend to publish research news from our local institutes in lay language.
My intention is to increase the pages to give more coverage to local research and bring them to public attention. But how much can be done depends on the support we get from the scientists and their corporate office.
For now I am almost begging institutes to send us news feeds. Emails have been sent out but I don’t see the rush of adrenalin among the officers to grab the chance of going public.
Being trained as a scientist and a science communicator, I don’t blame the media for not giving space to science. I see serious flaws in our scientific institutions. But this can be remedied if there is a will and passion.
BY DR MAHALETCHUMY ARUJANAN