This blog is now rarely updated, but remains as an archive of bits and pieces I've collected from around the internet. To see what's caught my eye more recently, find me on twitter.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

As; Science & advertising

As someone studying biology but with a real interest in advertising, this article is right up my street.

How could science benefit from a bit of PR attention? As is so often the case with online articles, some of the most interesting stuff is in the impassioned comments at the bottom. They range from hugely idiotic to quite insightful. The comments are based on two main discussions: One argument is based around the existence/importance of human-driven climate change, but the other is about whether advertising would corrupt the whole point of science. The idea suggested by some is that "spinning" scientific findings and ideas would defeat the point of the "here are the facts, do with them what you will" approach many scientists have.

There seems to be a large voice of people damning the author for suggesting that science could benefit from some PR. My opinion is that if the scientific community doesn't take responsibility for this itself, then it predominantly falls to the media to pass judgement on the work. Since the vast majority of people won't look to the empirical evidence or source papers, if scientific work wants to be presented in the right light then it has to consider the way it is presented. I agree that the danger of polluting scientific work with spin and misleading implications is very real, but isn't it the case that it's so important that science be presented in the right way and to a wide audience that we cannot afford to ignore the importance of marketing and advertising.

I know I would rather the scientists involved in carrying out work took more care in the way it reaches a wide audience of newcomers to the subject than have it be interpreted by other people in any biased way. Is there a danger of corrupting the scientific work? Yes. But the need to make science more accessible, and improve the communications between scientists and the public is far too great to ignore the potential benefits of careful PR and advertising.

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