This is a guest post by Minda Berbeco cross-posted with permission from Live Science. Minda Berbeco is programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology. She contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Recently, a college senior reached out to me, looking for tips on how to present her research to the public. We went around in circles for a while, until it became clear that the “public” she was targeting was the legislature in her fossil-fuel-loving state, her research was on climate change and her question was not, “How do I make this accessible?” but rather, “How do I survive?”
I quickly assured her that no one was going to attack her — that, at worst, people might be dismissive of, or uninterested in, her research. I suggested that other concerns might be more pressing: getting good grades, finding a place in a research lab, securing employment after the completion of her graduate work. As for the public, I finished by saying, “My goodness; they can't hurt you, they can't fire you and they can't give you an 'F.'” Afterward, though, I wondered, “Is that really true?”