In science communication/outreach/engagement, I continue to push myself and others to remember we have to value the knowledge in our audiences – they are not blank slates or empty pails waiting for us to fill them up. It’s hard, because I grew up in and managed to learn well enough from a system that works with that deficit model of experts as know-it-alls and everyone else as know-(virtually)-nothings.
However, I just found this article about a physician dealing with Zika in her patients. The teaser in the email really hit home to me as an example of what scientists are trying to work with every day, to at least some degree, when communicating about science and its inherent uncertainty:
“Physicians like me are learning about Zika along with our patients. This takes a dose of humility on our part and an understanding from our patients that we learn something new every single day.”
I think this is an awesome example of what scientists are dealing with all the time in terms of communicating science in uncertainty – though I think the physician could also go on to say that she learns from the patients as well …
Of course, Zika as an emerging phenomenon is a pretty extreme case, but it’s not that far off from the type of decision-making we are participating in as a global community around climate change, other health issues, technology, agriculture to feed an exploding population, you name it.
Here’s the full article: I’m an OB-GYN Treating Women With Zika: This is what it’s Like.