SCI-ART LAB

Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

Q: Dr. Krishna I am a blogger. How can I give correct information about corona virus to the general public?

Krishna: I appreciate your intention to give the right information. But it is very difficult to pick only correct information for people who don't do science themselves. 

This is what specialists do under these circumstances: 

1. Admit that you don't know much. Dunning Kruger effect is very dangerous while dealing with public. Because the virus is so new, there’s still a lot even the experts themselves don’t fully understand. For instance the speculation that the virus may be less dangerous when the weather improves is just that: speculation based on other studies, not on this one. It may or may not be correct for this virus. So don't hesitate to tell,  “Scientists still don’t fully understand how this virus will behave when the weather improves.”

And if you don't know the right information, just keep quiet. Don't talk or write anything about it until you get a clarity on the subject. Tell the stories exactly as they are without twisting or spinning them. 

2. Science takes a long, long time to establish facts. Meanwhile it becomes very messy. But science is a process of becoming less and less wrong as time goes by. That is why some studies have been confusing and even contradictory, such as those on how far the virus can travel in the air and how long it remains alive and viable on different surfaces.  If different studies show different findings, tell people all about them.

3. Trust only high standard peer-reviewed journals to get information. 

New and sensational ones circulated in the media are not trust worthy. 

4. Don't repeat misinformation again and again even if you tell people the story is not  true.  Repetition makes misinformation feel more true. It is human psychology to believe in even lies  that are brought to people's notice over and over again. 

5. Realise this: There are different experts for different subjects.  Experts in general biology need not be experts in Virology. So if a general biologist and a virologist are telling two different things about the corona virus, trust only the subject specialist, i.e., virologist. 

6. Balance things : while telling the truth avoid creating panic and fear among people. 

Read this article that gives tips on how to identify the right information in science: How to trust science stories: A guide for common man

Q: Why do people attack scientists and science communicators? They are doing a good job.

Do you face these things too and how do you cope?

Krishna: Thanks for understanding and appreciating our work. 

Yes, we do face lots of resistance from people who themselves can't resolve their mind matters. Like

cognitive_biases, confirmation_bias,  Dunning Kruger_effect,  patriarchal mindsets , 

total ignorance and what not.

People who practice pseudo-science like astrologers, body cleansing practices think if we make public realise the truth, they will lose their jobs.

People who are highly superstitious think they will lose their mental and external emotional supports these things give them. But they don't realize that science can give more stronger support. 

People who are highly religious think science is completely against religion and is trying to remove religion from the world. Religious leaders attack science and scientists like hell downgrading evolution, heliocentric theories and the like. 

Yes, I do face these things while interacting with people outside. Many of my colleagues from all around the world tell me it 's extremely difficult to deal with stupidity  and total ignorance. Two highly different levels of understanding of a thing can cause friction if not handled properly. But we have no choice but to deal with these things while communicating science. It is highly stressful to deal with sci-com.  It is easy to work in  labs. Sci-com drives you mad sometimes. It takes a lot of your precious time.

Only things that make us go forward despite the difficulties are  atleast some peoples' acceptance that science 's really good for them and the world and their adoption of the subject. The thought that others too might get benefits we are getting from science if they understand the subject in the way we do.

Simply telling someone what to feel or do will not change their perceptions or behaviour.  Further, the science of science communication supports the notion that simply providing more and more accurate information also will not c....

Changing mindsets takes hell of time. Lots of patience. Bearing set backs. Going forward despite everything.  

How do I cope? My mind is a big mess. I love challenges and that is what is still driving me. The desire to succeed ...

"Scientists devote their lives to decoding the Operations of Nature, which are oblivious to your culture and politics. When legions of experts alert society of impending catastrophe, yet warnings go unheeded, with fatal consequences, I'm left weeping for the future of civilization."

Neil deGrasse Tyson

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