Introducing the Real Scientist: Using Outreach to Change Your Persona
Annie Richardson(1) , Vinca Rosmorduc(2) , and Margaret Srinivasan(1)
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Mail Stop 264-331,
Pasadena, CA 91109,
(2) CLS/Space Oceanography Division, 8-10 Rue Hermes, Ramonville, St. Agne, 31526, France
If on the Internet you do an image search for the word “scientist”, chances are that at the top of the hit list you’ll find images of a bespectacled old man in a white lab coat. You know and we know that this isn’t the real scientist at all. Unfortunately, this just might be the vision that enters the head of a pre-college student, a non-science teacher, or many people in the general public when they hear the word scientist. The profession itself may conjure up images of laboratories, Bunsen burners, and glass flasks, or worse yet; mad scientists producing strange creatures like those of Dr. Frankenstein.
How can you change this image? Your outreach team can help by suggesting ideas, products and venues. Community centers and civic organizations welcome science talks especially from someone actively engaged in the latest research. You’d be surprised at who is interested in what you do.
To meet U.S. National Science Education Standards students receive some instruction in Earth sciences throughout the course of their pre-college education. It is not uncommon for teachers especially at the elementary level, to have little or no formal Earth science training of their own. In these cases your help is appropriate and appreciated and could be given in various ways from speaking in the classroom to providing input or feedback on written material. Career days are excellent programs that give you the opportunity to tell and show students that scientists are regular people who were once regular kids. Community colleges and universities often offer Earth science colloquia where invited speakers bring variety and the real-word perspective to the course.
The benefits of your participation in outreach are three-fold. Educators, students, and the general public learn first-hand about current Earth science research and technology; you fulfill the “greater good” requirement of your research activities; and, you help erase the myth of the nerdy scientist by introducing yourself, the real scientist, to the public.