Friday, March 21, 2014

Preaching to the converted

I've been at a few events recently where the sub-theme was pretty clearly "Preach to the converted" Intentional or not, that's what it seemed to be. Even if trying to avoid that sub-theme, it's still there. A few conferences come to mind, as well as a very successful event called IFLScience live.

But Preaching and converted seem to have non-scientific feel about them, so perhaps we should science-ify this saying a bit. Scientists don't really preach. I'd say instead of preaching, we present and review results and collaborate. And we don't call our colleagues converted, we call them peers. So instead of preaching to the converted, it really should be called a process of peer review...
Hang on...Isn't that exactly what Science is???
This process can be seen by some as a bit exclusive or elitist by some but, these are conferences and all conferences are like that, and not just the science ones. It would be a bit silly to invite everyone for the sake of saying everyone is invited. The most recent conference I was at where the vibe felt very self congratulatory was the Australian Science Communicators conference in Brisbane in February this year. And I don't think this is a bad thing. It's good to congratulate ourselves!

What we really should be doing is just including a bigger set of people into our peer group, that's it, just assume that more people are in our peer group! Marketers do this very well. IFLS is about to have this chance to assume that people watching it are your peers when it goes on TV. If we do that, they will become our peers, then they can come to our conferences, get our jokes and be elite like us in the in crowd!

I see program like The Big Bang Theory and others reach out to a science audience, but also to non-science audience, in a way that hasn't been done before. People who laugh at that show (for whatever reason) are now our peers. We can now talk science things with people who would have normally said, "Oh I was never very good at school"and used words like boffin.

For want of a better term, preaching to the converted has its place in what we do. It keeps us thinking about what we do, it makes us feel like we are making a difference (which is important), it allows us to network and catch up with old and new friends (also important) and if done right, will increase the number of converted.

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