Monday, October 28, 2013

The power of intuition in science communication

In the science communication research world over the past year or so, there seems to be an assumption that working from an intuitive place = bad and that working from a data-driven, research-based place = good.** It is in many ways difficult for me to actually hear research results when they are framed that way, even though I do appreciate the place I think it's coming from, which is that there is a lot to be gained by understanding social science research in science communications. But, I'd also like to think there is a role for intuition *and* for data - I mean, why we gotta be so old-school dualistic?

I can say that without a doubt, I work from a very intuitive place. That intuition is guided by many, many years of practical experience and my own internal data about what works and what doesn't in science communication and, yes, by actual data and research where it exists. And, I can also unequivocally say that I have been a part of at least a few very successful science communication efforts, all guided to a great degree by intuition.

Don't get me wrong, data is also useful, particularly when you can afford to get it, which most of us bootstrapping it out in the hinterlands can't. The allure of data is strong, particularly for science types. But, I really feel that there truly is a role for intuition, especially in undertaking creative, engaged, relational, practice-based work in science communication. It's as much an art as it is a science.

**For example, a keynote talk at the 2012 Sackler Colloquium: The Science of  Science Communication titled "Why we can't trust our intuitions" and some papers from that conference that were recently published (August 2013) in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences special feature.

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