Friday, February 1, 2013
Opinion: Communication Crisis in Research
The problem threatens progress and stems from both a lack of attention to clear discourse and a scientific culture not focused on critical challenges.
It is often acknowledged that scientists don't communicate well with the public, but increasingly they don't communicate well with each other. The typical biomedical research presentation has become a dizzying whirlwind of incomprehensible slides, presented at lightening speed and labeled with unreadable font sizes and abbreviations known only to the speaker. Publications also pose problems. Many scientists report they don't have time to evaluate or even read the deluge of articles coming from the growing number of print and on-line journals. A recent New York Times article argued that the problem of scientific retractions is reaching a critical point. While many factors contribute to scientific inaccuracy, the sheer volume of publications and the obliqueness with which many are written, clearly play a role.
This crisis of communication has developed slowly and almost imperceptibly. During the last 40 years the need for effective communication has increased while the quality of that communication has declined. This growing gap threatens progress.