Obviously Ask A Biologist has sucked up much of my time for the last few days with the relaunch being more successful than I could have hoped. I’ve been inundated with offers of help and the site is overflowing with new questions (almost literally – we have jsut got it down to under 100 unanswered questions). However, two things have struck me that are quite heartwarming as 1) they show how healthy science communciation can be and 2) I can be insufferably smug as they seem to reinforce things I have said before about these issues. Clearly both patterns are influenced by the enormous word of blog campaign that has spread out this time around (thanks again) that went onto many blogs by or for scientifically literate people. Even so, I think the pattern shown here are relevant and likely indicative of wider effects.
AAB has always been available to all, even if we specifically tried to direct the site at kids to get them (or keep them) interested in science/ biology. Now however we are seeing a huge flood of questions from people who clearly know their stuff and want to know more. There are very detailed and techncial questions appearing the display an obvious depth of knowledge and understanding of some complex areas of biology. There really is a wide audience out there with a real interest in science who know a lot and want to know more, and presumably either are not being given that information, or at least want extra options and access to more form the researchers.
Secondly there are also obviously a large number of scientists both willing and able to engage in science communication but whom have either been stifled in their attempts or perhaps lacked the spark of interest or a platform to do it. It’s noticable how as soon as AAB has reached a wide audience, offers have been pouring in and people have been rolling up their collective sleeves and getting stuck in. It’s great to see.
In short then, scientists want to communicate their work to the public and the public want to be communicated to. Why is this proving so difficult? There are many answers to that, but I would argue that AAB has helped brige part of one gap at least and I’m delighted to see both sides taking full advantage.