While you sit there, I am simultaneously providing this blog post, this podcast, and this AGU talk.  All on the same topic-- how can we get scientists to provide science for public consumption.

The podcast poses these problems for you, the readers of science:

  • Who writes the science on the web?

  • What is their agenda?

  • Why don't scientists write it?
From the other side, my AGU talk tries to solve it for scientists.  It's rooted in the way that science careers are made and lost.
Proposals -> Research -> Papers -> Proposals -> ...
This is the Carnot Cycle of Research Work.

Proposals fund Research.  Research produces Papers.  More Papers increases the odds your next Proposal gets funded.  Repeat until you retire.

We need to add a 'Public Engagement' fork after Research.

Most scientists agree with the 'big picture' concept that the public should be reasonably informed about science, because they are the ones that vote and fund much of the science done at the national level.

Put another way, if scientists don't engage the public, the agenda is being set without us.

However, building a career on unfunded mandates is not a good way to stay employed in science.  The alternative-- an EPO-specific job-- has a lower salary than research.  Finally, why should you give up your research to do EPO?  Can't you do both?

Institutional change and top-down support are needed if scientists are expected to engage the public.

My solution for moving us towards that is citation.  If citation of web interaction is accepted at, say, the level of a Conference Proceeding, then engagement can be measured by managers and become part of of a career path.  Sure, that sort of citation isn't equivalent to an A-list paper in ApJ or similar, but it is a useful metric.

Encourage engagement citations and the research cycle becomes broader, scientists engage more with the public, and the country benefits.  QED.

Or use the time-tested method: just wait until the current generation of scientists die and the currently-blogging post-docs are in charge, and the change will happen.  Your choice on timescales, but either way, it has to happen.

Tuesdays at The Satellite Diaries and Friday at The Daytime Astronomer (twitter @skyday)