Most of the posts I post here are about actual science. Today, I thought I’d take a little bit of a turn and talk about how we communicate science. After all, you are the people who I want to encourage to explore the world of science, so it’s you I would like the opinion of.
There’s been a growing movement in the science communication circuit to promote ‘Geek Pride’. For the uninitiated, geek pride is sort of like gay pride, but being proud of being a geek. Apparently, to be a scientist is to be a geek so instead of fighting the negative stereotypes, we should all apparently accept it.
Geek is a stereotype
There’s nothing inherently geeky about being a scientist. To me, geeks are typified by their poor dress sense, social awkwardness and intense devotion to a subject. The imagery associated with geeks is especially powerful, with the fashion industry populating geek chic only a few years back.
So with all this imagery and broad classification, why would I support Geek Pride when I don’t identify as a geek (in fact, people tell me I’m a hipster). Why should people interested in science, technology and the world around them, be branded as a geek? If that’s the criteria then will.i.am, perhaps one of the biggest promoters of science outside the science world is a huge, fat, mega geek!
Every profession has a stereotype. Stereotypes are never a good thing. Geek is the penultimate stereotype for scientists.
We are in a time when we really need to think about how we promote science. There is a need to show a positive message of what science is, and to encourage more people to become engaged.
Science itself has an issue with branding. All sorts of scientists, whether they’re a biologist, physicist , chemist or other, get lumped into this one generic category. It’s like branding ‘Art’ as a single form, when really it’s a multidisciplinary area with photography, paintings, sculpture and theatrics.
Of course, nerds and geeks exist in science, just as they do in any occupation. They can own that if they wish and they can be proud for sure. But just because some scientists identify as geeks, doesn’t mean we all do, and we don’t all need to wave the geek flag for the sake of it.
Scientists are people too
When it comes to encouraging the next generation of scientists, or even to encourage the public to get involved with science, image is everything. For the young ones, they need to be able to imagine what they would look like if they were to become a scientist when they grow up. It’s no use having this stock standard stereotypically geeky, lab coat wearing, buck toothed yokel to look up to.
And for the public, it’s hard to relate to the socially inept, coldness of a geek scientist. Geek Pride does nothing to show off the creativeness needed to make major scientific breakthroughs, it does nothing to show off the enthusiasm and passion for the hunt and does nothing to propel science into the main stream spotlight.
Real scientists can’t be branded into a singularity and real scientists show the breadth of human personality that exists. Let’s celebrate the diversity that’s out there, call out for the individuals to shine through and break through those frustrating lab coat moulds.
Please, let me know what you think in the comments below, our facebook page or twitter profile. You’re the ones we’re trying to reach after all.