Ottoline Leyser discussed the necessity of breaking down communication barriers between scientists and lay people.

Ottoline discussed the necessity of breaking down communication barriers between scientists and lay people.  In particular, the need to overcome “in group” versus “out group” thinking for BOTH the scientific community and the general public.  Such thinking leads to in group favoritism, out group derogation, in group social influence, out group homogenization, and worst of all, polarization between groups. The reward of “in group” thinking is that it reduces insecurity and fear of the unknown, and reinforces one’s beliefs. So how do scientists overcome such behavior? First of all, we must acknowledge that science is simply a method of finding things out and problem solving, and that ANYONE is capable of using this method, and in fact, almost everyone uses the scientific process in their everyday lives. One does NOT need to be superhumanly clever to apply the scientific process.  Second, we need to acknowledge that the scientific process requires creativity and experimentation, and that most of the time, our experiments fail. Robots do not make good scientists.  Failure is an essential part of the scientific process.  Science is not a unidirectional march to the “truth”.  Communicating to the public that science is more about the process than the resulting “facts” is a must, as is giving the public of all ages opportunities to engage in the scientific process with fun activities.   An additional goal of outreach activities is to communicate that scientists are just normal people and we share many of the same goals and desires as everyone else, including a safe and abundant food supply.   By getting out of the lab and interacting with students in schools and the general public, it gives them a chance to interact with scientists on a personal level.

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