Practicing science communication at ASU's Second Knowledge Mobilization Awards


I started talking to Joe Doiron about his research, and decided to pull the camera back out. He does me the favor of a brief interview. Then Gregory Tucker crashes the party at the end, and talk about batteries. That man also had the overall winning video, nice job!

A few more conversations happened that I didn't catch on video, then the show started. We had a few opening remarks from event coordinators. Some folks repeated a lot of what I've already written about are problems in academia, namely that academia doesn't have a monopoly on information anymore, and that it needs to change the way it does things. So, it's nice to see ASU is trying with this event. A bit of a bumpy start as only the second time doing it, e.g. my video didn't get in, but no worries. Getting encouragement from anyone in academia to publish anything in any medium outside of the peer reviewed journals or conferences that the professors own is a big improvement. So, again, good job!

I took notes (my thoughts in blue) for our 
Keynote: Dr. Andrew Mayner
Title: Humility is not a 4-letter work

He started with an anecdote about some physicist getting flustered and defensive when being questioned about some planetary protection thing. Basically the Physicist said, you should just trust me bc I'm the scientist.

Our speaker then talked about concepts of hubris and humility.
"Hubris" and "Humility" are subjective terms. You want to talk about hubris, let's talk about Sheryl Sandberg trying to ban words. #banbossy, okay, how would you rather we describe people who behave:

Come on... I was with you on "Lean in", but what were you thinking with "Ban Bossy"? Seriously. That's pretty ironic. You should really consider hiring some better PR/communications strategy advisors your highness. ;-P

Speaker gives an anecdote about him creating a public inventory of nanomaterials, turns into headline:
"Leading scientist accuses manufacturers of using customers as guinea pigs"
He said he had a realization that he was stupid enough to think he could say whatever he liked.
I'm going to take that last one with a grain of salt. There are a lot of reporters with no morals. And they will twist people's words to whatever they want to suit their purposes, which is usually just to get ratings. But sometimes also to the highest bidders too who want to sway public opinion for whatever reason.

10 Lessons:
  1. Don't become a victim of excess humility. Scientists think they're not relevant, but even if you think you don't know that much, you do know things.
    I was joking with someone after the presentation that I feel like I'm a lead foot in this department. Either slamming on the gas or on the brakes. Finesse is an art that I am still working on. I'm not 35 yet, so I've still got time. ;-P
  2. Respect your audience. Remember when you're trying to transmit information, it's about the recipient. yes
  3. Always put your audience first. There's a tendency to think it's all about you, but its about the recipient. yes
  4. Always be prepared to learn from others and listen to others. yes
  5. Do not mansplain. He says he doesn't like the word, and that in academia it transcends genders i.e. women can mansplain too. Don't have this bad attitude about explaining things.
    Wait what? Did he even write this list that he's reading from?
    I'm not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak here, but wow.
    Speaking of saying whatever you want and worrying about reporting, imagine the headline:

    "ASU professor encourages women to lead in mansplaining on university campus"

    "Anything men can do women can do better, and that includes mansplaining according to Prof ___"
    "Humble sustainability scientist risks career by saying that women can be condescending. Will feminists allow him to keep trying to save humanity?"

    IDK, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt here that he's trying to pull some kind of crazy social Jiu Jitsu seed-planting move, but I think he could have just as well said, don't be condescending, without using the male gender as a negative pre-fix. That's beyond condescending.

  6. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
  7. You will make mistakes. Fail forward, and fail fast.
  8. People don't have to listen to you, or pay attention to you. Start thinking about how do you engage people so that they want to listen to you? There we go, that helps. Maybe academia can take a bit of its own medicine.
  9. Engage with language that people want to hear. Whatever you do, don't communicate in a language that doesn't make sense to the other person. mansplaining?
  10. Be generous in your support of others. Help people, encourage people. Have the humility to help someone else. What does humility have to do with helping others? That's generosity, compassion, good will, love, responsibility, etc. Some of the most humble people I meet are some of the most selfish assholes who's sole goal in life appears to be to acquire power by any means necessary with no regard for other human life. Meanwhile some of the people with the highest sense of self-importance, take the most personal responsibility to help others.

Speaker made a cheeky remark at one point about the irony of him giving us a lecture on humility. I've still yet to meet a Brit who didn't have a good sense of humor. So, thanks for bringing this up. It's an important topic of conversation, and very timely given the current state of public discourse on science. 

And to close things out, here's a fun video, where I interview a social science researcher about her work on indigenous peoples in Taiwan.

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