Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stay Connected

You'd be hard-pressed to find a good communicator who wasn't aware of current events and mainstream culture. Which means, as we strive to be better science communicators we need to maintain or improve our connections to the world. But, when your job entails reading journal articles, newspapers, books, and basically any other subject relevant piece of literature (using that term lightly here), the last thing you want to do is go home and absorb more information. In my current position there's a lot to take in. There are always articles circulating about health and science, meetings, blog posts, policy discussions, and enough news media to easily paper the walls of my office.

I understand your plight. At the end of the day, it sometimes takes serious effort to get myself to do anything. It's easy to forget about learning anything that isn't related to work. Then I remember: if I want to be able to talk to anyone that works outside of my field, I'm going to have to have a clue about what is going on in the world. By keeping current on issues that are important outside my office, I am able to relate to (and therefore communicate with) people better. This isn't just good advice for scientists, it applies to every driven professional out there. From time to time we've all been guilty of closing ourselves off - but if we make a concerted effort to stay connected it will enhance our lives and our work.

Knowing what is going on internationally, nationally, and locally is beneficial. It gives you an opportunity to find advocacy and communication opportunities, provides material for building examples, and may spark creative ideas for partnerships. If none of that is convincing, just remember that it can help you maintain supremacy at Jeopardy!.

There are many ways quick and easy ways to stay connected to your non-work world:

Read popular fiction.
Peruse the community or local newspaper.
Go to a town hall or school board meeting.
Watch the local and/or national evening news.
Listen to the radio (we love NPR too, but branch out if you can).
Have lunch with someone who works nearby, but not in your field.
Read magazine headlines while waiting in line at the grocery store.
Watch one movie a month that you've never seen before (doesn't have to be in theaters).
Subscribe to the feed of a political cartoonist.

What keeps you connected?


  1. I check online newspaper headlines daily and listen to the radio during my commute. However, radio stations here tend to talk about celebrities more than actual news... not sure if that actually counts =]
    Besides, I can't remember the last time I talked with a non-scientist other than my chiropractor.

  2. Ha! Media outlets are definitely a good place to start, but you're right, you'll be missing a lot of "news".

    I had a conversation with a cab driver on the way into D.C. last month about this. He was asking what I thought the "best" place to find news is. I'd have loved to punt that one back to Heather, but I was on my own. I told him I try to look at as many world news outlets as possible, keeping in mind any political leanings so that I can figure out where the spin is happening.

    Any thoughts?