Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Q: Why do you think despite numerous science communication projects undertaken all over the world, they are not succeeding like they should have?
Krishna: I worked in adult education programmes during my college days. Now I am dealing with science communication. I have learnt a lot in these educational programmes.
The main point one should understand in these educational programmes is People will listen to what they want to hear, understand what they want to perceive, not what you want to say or teach. So you should sculpt your education/ science communication projects to suit peoples' perceptions, educational and psychological backgrounds to succeed.
The perception that science is a difficult subject creates mind blocks too. If you go about it the normal way, you won't succeed much in these scenarios.
Now what do people want to hear? What their conditioned minds want them to hear! The things that confirm their biases and perceptions! The ideas that suit them and their cultural , religious, emotional, political and ideological credentials! The things that are easy on their minds.
But how can you go against your own evidence and facts or down grade them to suit the public demands? You can't!
Moreover, if you deviate too much into the cultural and religious backgrounds of people, you lose your way and get into the world of pseudo-science and your identity as a person of science gets distorted.
So balancing things is very vital during the communication process. Without deviating from facts, you should be able to negotiate the peoples' needs.
I always search for the ground that suits this balancing act. But this ground is very scarce and difficult to find most of the time. That is where culture, especially art and literature helped me. I can bring art and culture before people, make them believe that it is something that agrees with their identity, deviate peoples' gaze from the contrasting things I am about to show them, and nicely and slowly place facts before them. This makes them accept what I want to say without much turmoil in their minds as this negotiates their confirmation biases successfully.
For instance, let me give the example of my art work "SACRED LIFE"
[ Description: One of my Western friends once asked me, “ Why do Hindus worship Gods in Animal and Plant forms?” “It’s because,” I told my friend, “Hindus believe God is OMNIPRESENT i.e., present everywhere & in everything. There is no place where you can’t find God. All plants & animals are as important to them as human beings & sacred too”.
“Agreed,” says science! All living beings on this planet are equal & play important roles in the complex systems they live in. Treating their roles in the complex webs with respect & protecting them is a must for the very survival of mankind. Because when there are no plants & animals on this planet even man cannot survive on earth.
Although there are several plant & animal forms that are worshipped by Hindus, I chose only the important ones for my painting. My painting shows Ganesha, the God with an elephant head. Blue Jay is considered in some parts of India as incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Nagaraja is the snake worshipped all over India. Hanuman is the monkey God. Tulasi (Oscimum) is a sacred plant & cow is a sacred animal for Hindus. Lord Vishnu’s ten incarnations include Varahavatara (varaha=pig, avatara=incarnation), Narasimhavatara (nara=man, simha=lion)-God with lion head, Koormavatara (koorma=tortoise) & Matsyavatara (matsya=fish). All these plant & animal forms are worshipped by Hindus as they are considered sacred by them
The double helix of DNA represents life – which is central – surrounded by a ring of chromosomes- to show that life in all its forms is sacred. Bringing science, religion & art together for the cause of conservation is my main aim in painting this picture].
Need I tell you how much people liked this and that not even a single person rejected it or argued against it? Because nobody, literally nobody, faced cognitive dissonance while analysing, perceiving, and accepting this scientific concept. It totally agreed with all human and natural aspects like culture, religion, ideologies and science!
What is more important is people themselves started promoting it!
That is how this common ground takes you to success in the field of science communication.
Likewise, I negotiate the "difficulty mind block" using literature in the form of stories and poems.
Another thing I realized 's if a normal person like a journalist or an ordinary writer or blogger says something, people take it differently than when an expert says it!
Moreover, an expert will normally have the whole picture before him/her and therefore, can negotiate things properly and place things before the general public in the right way.
I tried to say a few things earlier just like a normal person. People never gave a second hearing to it. Moreover, they tried to argue with me. But when I told them who I was, their behaviour changed completely and irreversibly! Their attention levels increased!
So who says what and how matters a lot in the science communication process!
When we think about important global issues like climate change, a different kind of approach helps. Having the critical thinking skills necessary to discern good information from false, and being able to process data to understand how individual behaviour can contribute to—or mitigate—climate change are two abilities necessary for calculation. A good decision-making often involves a balance of analysis and emotion. For people to make environmentally friendly decisions, these ways of thinking need to inform one another.
We have to teach people critical thinking skills to overcome these inadequacies before placing the facts before them. In a way we have to erase what is already there in their minds that effects the processing. That is understanding their concerns, resolving the differences amicably is highly important.
Engaging our emotions helps us determine what we do or do not like, what does and does not excite us, and what feels like the right thing to do for our neighbours, everybody and the planet.
What kinds of data, comparisons and trade-offs are going to help people make the choice that makes the most sense for them given their values and financial realities? While not everyone can afford an electric vehicle, almost everyone can make small steps in a greener direction. If we directly start preaching about electric vehicles, most people wouldn't listen because their financial statuses don't allow them to! But if you make them to switch to energy saving bulbs, or plant trees, most of them would oblige! We should understand this very clearly.
Once people understand the interplay between analysis and emotion, organizations such as companies and governments can work to develop strategies that trigger both so that people can make better decisions in their daily lives.
You need to figure out who you're talking to, what they care about, and what trade-offs they are willing to make given their current situation. And then you need to show what's possible within that range of opportunities and constraints. If we're going to promote and facilitate a more climate-friendly lifestyle, the most important thing we can do is respect people and meet them where they are.
We should never try to preach, but try to understand their concerns and fears and try to meet them on their grounds or middle grounds. There is no other way out. We must engage with emotions.
A lot of policy makers in the government or at private companies look at climate change as a math problem that can be 'solved' by looking at things like cost or carbon footprint. But viewing it in this way increases psychological distance from it, which may make people feel less compelled to act. We need to look at climate change not just as a math problem to be solved, but as a human problem we can work through together.
Scientists can publish data and give lectures on severe weather events, wildfires and rising temperatures all year long, but until we connect with people emotionally, they are unlikely to take consistent steps toward fighting climate change. That is the secret of success. That is how the communication process triumphs.
Health issues: It is easy to tell people not to smoke. And give them pages and pages of literature which mention all the harmful effects smoking brings. They read, get worried, fear cancer and want to quit smoking. They even try it. But after a few hours, they find it extremely difficult to control the urges and start doing it again!
Why? Nicotine is the main addictive drug in tobacco that makes quitting so hard. Cigarettes are designed to rapidly deliver nicotine to your brain. Inside your brain, nicotine triggers the release of chemicals that make you feel good. As nicotine stimulates parts of your brain over and over, your brain gets used to having nicotine around. Over time, nicotine changes how your brain works and makes it seem like you need nicotine just to feel okay. When you stop smoking, your brain gets irritable. As a result, you might get anxious or upset. You might have a hard time concentrating or sleeping, have strong urges to smoke, or just feel generally uncomfortable. These feelings are called withdrawal.
Same things happen with drinking.
You have to teach people first how to overcome this. Otherwise you won't succeed in making people accept science.
Yes, just giving lectures doesn't make you a good science communicator. Writing good articles with scientific data doesn't make you a good science communicator. You have to really connect with people at all levels, address all their concerns and problems, erase and clear the things that got lodged there for years and then try to put your helpful science in that empty space to take root and flourish.
That is why I ask my scientist friends to do the communication process themselves. And tell them at least work with them at every vital step and make the journalists and science writers do the work in the correct way to succeed.
It is extremely important in this field to choose the way of success and not get defeated.
A large review compared the effectiveness of methods to quit smoking, with three emerging as clear winners for helping people kick the habit.
The medications varenicline and cytisine, as well as nicotine e-cigarettes proved to be the most successful among the interventions reviewed by a UK team.
A total of 157,179 smokers were included in the analysis of 319 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), that tracked success in quitting for at least six months.
"The best thing someone who smokes can do for their health is to quit smoking," says public health scientist Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, at the time from the University of Oxford.
"Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death worldwide, and though many people want to quit smoking, it can be hard to do so."
The main addictive ingredient, nicotine, is one of the most widely used substances and the third most addictive, exerting a powerful grip on brains. The data showed that without assistance, only about 6 in 100 people have a chance of successfully quitting.
Varenicline and cytisine work by activating brain nicotinic receptors – which release dopamine when activated by nicotine – and preventing nicotine from activating them.
There was no significant difference in the effectiveness of cytisine (brand name Tabex) and varenicline (brand names Chantix and Champix), and nicotine e-cigarettes. According to the findings, about 14 percent of smokers who try to quit with the help of these methods will be successful for six months or longer.
The next most effective strategy was to combine two kinds of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as nicotine patches and gum or lozenges.
"However, using a single form of NRT, like the patch or gum alone, resulted in fewer additional quitters," says University of Oxford medical scientist Nicola Lindson.
"Around 12 in 100 people using two forms of NRT together will quit successfully, compared to around 9 in 100 people using only one type."
Gradually reducing nicotine may be slightly more effective than quitting abruptly, the data showed. Whether someone starts nicotine treatment before or after quitting, and the dose taken, doesn't seem to affect efficacy.
Another medication called bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin), showed effectiveness in 9 percent of quitters.
The data on safety found that bupropion might have a very small increase in serious adverse events compared to not using any medication. In general, the treatments studied were safe, with few severe side effects, though the authors note that not all the RCTs included data on side effects.
"Pooling together all of the available trials comparing smoking cessation medications with control interventions is a really important way in which we can assess what works to help people quit smoking," says social scientist Caitlin Notley from the UK University of East Anglia, in an expert reaction.
"This network meta-analysis shows that e-cigarettes, varenicline and cytisine are all effective smoking cessation aids. Twice as many people managed to quit smoking using one of these aids compared to control conditions."
The authors don't think more evidence will change the clear results, though more data in terms of side effects and the best combinations of medications and behavioral support, would be helpful.
Like the majority of research, most studies were conducted in countries with higher incomes, so evidence from lower-income countries is scarce. The team hopes future studies will look at how socioeconomic status affects quitting smoking.
"It is very difficult to quit. There are several products available to help with this, but the relative effectiveness of these methods has long been uncertain," Lindson says.
"Our research dives deep into the world of smoking cessation… providing people who smoke, healthcare professionals and policymakers with reliable data to make informed decisions."
The study has been published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.