"Taking the Risk"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 11 December 2017. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

We've all been there before. Someone asks a question about a topic we're presenting on, and we're not quite sure how to answer. Maybe we're completely stumped. Maybe we only half-remember the subject. We don't want to disappoint the audience or leave them hanging, but we don't want to say something totally wrong. What do we do?

Indeed, it's exactly that situation that prevents a lot of people, especially scientists, from engaging in public outreach. For a scientist, being correct and thorough is a key part of any communication, from an email to a conference presentation. We train for weeks on a talk, preparing ourselves for any potential question. But with the general public you never know what you're going to get...so you're better off not even trying.

Just putting yourself out there in front of an audience is a major achievement.

Mistakes are going to be made. Wrong numbers will be quoted. A simplification of a topic will leave an important aspect out. Words will get flipped around. That's life, and that's fine, as long as we're constantly challenging ourselves to do better. It's okay to say "I don't know." It's okay to admit a mistake. It's okay to go back over a topic.

Sometimes science communication requires a little risk.

About the Author

Paul Sutter

Paul Sutter

Paul Sutter is COSI's Chief Scientist. He is an astrophysicist and offers a wealth of knowledge about our universe. In addition to his COSI position, Paul Sutter is a Cosmological Researcher and Community Outreach Coordinator at The Ohio State University's Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP).