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The trouble with scientists…..

January 29, 2014

OK so put up your hand if you have ever worked with or had a conversation with a career scientist?  Yes?  You have my sympathies…..

Firstly I have to say that science is a pretty broad field so I’ll crop it for us – let’s just consider cosmetic chemists and those scientists working in the field of cosmetology.

There, that’s more palatable.

So, I was on the phone to a fellow science geek/nerd (not sure which one works best) today and was struck by a few things:

The scientist on the other end of the phone:

  • Basically told me that everything I know is wrong (in regards to what we were discussing).
  • Opened my eyes to a solution that I hadn’t even thought possible (and that I agreed was damn clever).
  • Laughed at some of the things I said before considering them a bit and then agreeing that I might actually know something.
  • Told me that it would take at least 20 years to be good at what I was proposing (I’ve been doing this particular thing for 4 and kind of get what he’s saying but don’t believe it).
  • Told me everything I know is wrong again.
What being on the phone to a fellow scientist looks like

What being on the phone to a fellow scientist looks like

Oh Joy!

And I did enjoy this conversation as science, as in REAL science where risks are taken, money is poured into what might well be an experimental black hole and stuff is FOUND OUT is actually quite rare these days. Too risky,  too hard to make sound SEXY – yes you can have the scientists get naked and make a you tube video discussing their findings if you REALLY want to…….. Just let’s think about that for a moment shall we…..

So, despite me being branded as a fool (who are you again and what do you do?) I am now penciling this science person into my address book under people whom I ‘must engage with more often’ and that is a good feeling.

Just over six years ago when I set up Realize Beauty I had the vision to bridge this gap – the crazy mad scientist Vs marketing and general public.  This is because I could see that the world was straining under mounting issues – sustainability, toxicity, animal testing, performance, cost etc – and I believed (and still do) that scientific understanding is the best way forward.   The very best scientists are usually quite mad crazy (with the greatest respect) and often either  struggle or refuse to see the gravity (science pun intended) behind the objections of the general public. This can be for many reasons, not least because they might simply have care fatigue after spending many moons finding more ways to tell you that thing you are worried about is indeed safe.  In that gap is where I sit.

This gap is an interesting mix of science investigating/ psychological understanding/ sales and marketing and it is lots of fun but it does require a certain something to both pull off in terms of engaging readers and to personally manage – I quite often feel like Mrs Wrong from Wrong Town which is all part of the fun really.

So, here are my tips for living in middle earth – the gap between science and fiction (?) / science vs art / science vs consumerism………

  1. Understand and enjoy the fact that scientists rarely agree with each other so stating things as absolute fact is red rag to a bull.
  2. Enjoy being wrong.  Why?  Because you are.
  3. Take humble steps to correct step 2 while never adopting a guru mentality.  You will never be totally right.
  4. Communicate simply and honestly the state of affairs as you currently know it.
  5. Listen more than you talk and listen with an open mind – except for the point when you are told you are wrong. No need to be open minded about that, you are wrong.
  6. Ask lots of questions – not the kind that are just designed to make you look clever but the type that you really do want to know the answer too.
  7. Leave the drama behind at night.  It doesn’t matter if someone is wrong on the internet.  You don’t have to fix them or it or anything.
  8. Touch, smell, taste (when appropriate) and enjoy the things that you are talking and writing about.  It isn’t enough just to regurgitate ‘facts’.
  9. Invest lots of time in understanding the scientific process and how individual scientists work. This will prove invaluable when deciphering their ramblings.
  10. Be really, really interested.  No, not in getting more income,  more Facebook fans, more blog readers, more kudos amongst peers,  just interested in learning and sharing more.

In my humble opinion the middle ground is where all the good stuff happens. It is challenging, dynamic, complex, crazy and I abso-blinkin-lutely love it.

But what would I know. I’m always wrong.

Oh AND I’m a scientist.

God help you all.

Amanda x


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