Science is Served!


Trust me, I get that when most people think of science they think of textbooks, words they don't understand, and methods and plots that make no sense. I'm from a family that works in many a technical field! Engineers, doctors, nurses...and even then, when I sent them my first publication, I got teasing emails asking what the whole thing meant and why they should care! My snarky brother even asked something akin to: "Can you send us a stupid people's summary?"

That's because most science is written for the conference room of people that actually research the subject that is being written about! Understandably so. Ninety percent of the time the discovery that is being made is something that probably affects a small subset of scientists. But because of that, we have this communication conundrum. 

Science isn't written for the public. We know that! Yet, I think it's fair to say that many scientists have some burning desire, some might say a fantasy, that their research is going to be ground-breaking and touch the lives of people throughout the world! That it's not only going to reach and impact the public in some way, but that they'll appreciate it and respond to it. That's why many of us get into this field.

But, how the heck do we think that's going to happen with how we write? In our publications, we prose on about methodologies and controls! It's not our fault. It's how the publications that we're submitting to (publish or die, my friends) require it to be!  But, let's face it, the general public doesn't give a crap about all that. And the unfortunate side-effect of that is that most people who have sat down to read a given paper probably got bored and checked out before they really get to the interesting part!

One of my biggest frustrations as a scientist has always been that science isn't made accessible. Even to those of us with advanced degrees! My degree in Microbiology doesn't help me understand what the heck a physicist, for example, is talking about the majority of the time, even though I have been exposed to physics in my education. That might surprise many people. Non-scientists tend to lump "science" into this single category, assuming that if you are a scientist that you understand it all. I cannot tell you how many times I've been asked about some obscure scientific concept or about some disease that I don't study just because of my field. The assumption is that we all, as scientists, know everything.

Yet, science is not all created equal, and all scientists do not speak the same language. I can't even begin to fathom how difficult it would be for non-scientists with merely a curiosity about a subject to understand what the hell is going on in publication! It's damn near impossible to really understand some of what's published, so most don't even try!

But what if... were presented in a way that was not only jargon-less and accessible, but interesting?

...if it were written in a way that wasn't rote and monotonous, but with humor and vivid stories?

...if science were presented in the same way that we gossip with friends over coffee & cocktails? With less care to grammar and more to engagement?

...if scientific discussions were approached in the same way you approach telling a friend a story at Happy Hour?!


As I started brainstorming about how I thought science could and should be presented to people, I realized where some of my favorite scientific conversations occurred...

Over drinks at Happy Hour commiserating with my fellow grad students...

At our departmental tea at 3 gatherings...

Over coffee with a friend...

Those were my favorite ways to talk science! Not getting bogged down in the monotony and methodological details, but getting into the actual meat of the work - the science of it! That's the fun stuff!

These conversations can still be intellectual and accurate, but without so much focus on speaking "like a scientist." I don't think anything about the scientific process or scientific discoveries is lost or diminished by talking about science with less concern about sounding intelligent!

I'm in my third year of my PhD program and I've realized that research really isn't for me. But, that being said, I don't want to solely give up science! So, I started considering options that would allow me to still exercise that interest, but without the constraints on my time and location!


I first started dabbling in science blogging/writing with Michigan Science Writers, which was the brain child of my friend Ada Hagan, and it was way fun! I was able to learn and read about things that always seemed too far fetched and unrelated to my research to ever actually spend time learning about! Like the brain benefits of video games, as I described in my first piece on MSW, called "The Brain Game"! I'm so excited to be able to do more of that here, in the future!

I have so much that I envision for this endeavor...

  • Panel-style convos while sipping on the beverage of choice!

  • Drink of the Day accompaniment to the days topic - I'm talking coffee, vino, and craft beer friends!

  • Summaries of scientific meetings - like the upcoming Michigan meeting in May at U of M!

  • Other casual, science interactions! 

The more ideas and input I can get here, the better! This is a casual space - if you're interested in learning about it, I want to make it happen! I'll bring in other experts, or interview experts myself to bring all the information I can to you on a variety of topics both of interest to me and of interest to you! 


Ellyn SchinkeComment