Public science engagement begins at home
A fair portion of scientists may find themselves the “only ones” in their family. Holiday gatherings can provide ample practice with you elevator speech. What is it that you do exactly? Some sort of bio-scio-chem thing? With beakers right?
During a quiet moment at on such a family gathering one of my relatives slid in a much more general bomb
“So why do we do research at all?”
My relative is a fairly regular guy without extreme predilections on any direction. He just doesn’t get why we pay money for someone to just…figure things out. He wasn’t meaning to be provocative, he just didn’t get it. What’s the value in trying to figure out anything without clear immediate, important (and lucrative) applications? Why not do that stuff first? As if the ideal situation would be 100% of all scientists working on cancer research (while consulting on the side).
As a person who has been ensconced in science since an early age, that question seems so obvious and ridiculous that of course I stammered though a sub-par answer. I guess engagement with the public begins at home. Perhaps I’ll have to give my “lab tour” talk at next year’s holiday gathering. Do your relatives and friends get what you do? Not in the technical sense, but the broader impact of scientific research (applied, theoretical, and otherwise)?