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Once again, Ina Vandebroek goes where no scientist has gone before… at least not on our site. Today she becomes our first scientist to write a SLoS blog post. Enjoy her wit and wisdom!
When I first got the email from the NOVA scienceNOW team about “The Secret Life of Scientists,” I had just turned down a request from another production team asking me to comment on some weird behavior of animals after eating fermented fruits. Being a scientist, talking to the press wasn’t exactly at the center of my comfort zone.
Lately, though, something’s been nagging at me. The beneficiary of scientific research is the general public—you, me and everyone we know—or at least that’s the idea. Contemporary ethnobotany, for example, has been broadly described as a science that can “offer answers to many challenges that today’s society is confronted with.” Yet, more often than not, contemporary science seems disconnected from society. We scientists go to our scientific congresses, write our publications, and preach to a choir of believing disciples, our scientific peers. In the meantime, funding for scientific research is dwindling, and I believe that is—at least in part—because we don’t regularly engage with the public about what we’re doing and why it’s so important. As simple as it sounds, if people feel disconnected from science, then they won’t give money to support it. So, maybe it’s time that scientists descend from their ivory science towers and explore the outer limits of their comfort zones.
OK, so I did not go on the freaky animal and fruit show.
But I took my chances and came to the NOVA scienceNOW studio. As I entered the black studio box, my blood pressure went up slightly. Mark Siddall from AMNH was doing his thing with his leeches and he was no less than spectacular. A pro. For an instant, as I watched the crew shooting Mark and got drawn into the magic of the moment, I actually forgot to be nervous. But soon enough, they were back. My doubts. What could be more nerve-racking than filming videos free style with no rehearsing? What if I would stumble? Forget how to speak English? What if my European accent was terrible and no one could understand me? After entertaining all these thoughts for a while, I decided (hearing my mom’s voice in my head ever since I was a child): “this is going to be fun. Life is short. Just seize the moment and don’t think too much.” Then one of the assistants called me in. The crew was very professional and focused on their work, but at the same time laid back and very amicable, sending me the vibe that “we’re all in this together, don’t worry.” Even more importantly, they were genuinely interested in what I had to say. I started to get into the mood. This was fun. The rest is for you to see in the videos.