Originally published May 2017
Sarah E. Kucharski, the Communications Lead at Biotech Partners, took over the @iamscicomm twitter on May 11. Much of the discussion she had with the 9K followers on that twitter had to do with the relationship between science communication and science art.
What is Science Communication and Science Art?
Generally speaking, science communication is the communication between scientists and the public. Between the experts and the non-experts. It’s also been called “outreach” or “popularization”, and has become somewhat of its own professional field within the science community.
Science communication can take many forms. Journalism, science exhibitions, talks in front of audiences, storytelling, and more. Science communication is what FemSTEM does every single time we upload an article.
However, as many scientists have realized, not every scientist can or should attempt to communicate sciences to the public. In a tweet from the twitter account @biotweeps, our guest writer, Melissa Marquez, expressed this point when she took over that twitter for the week.
"I DO think that scientists should partner with those already doing #scicomm to #sciengage with public." — Biotweeps - Melissa (@biotweeps)
Science art is what it sounds like — the blending together of science and artwork. Science art can take the forms of infographics, big pieces of artwork that convey a message, or something like a necklace even that has an atom pendant.
Where's the relation?
This was exactly the question that Sarah Kucharski had posed. “Is #scicomm #sciart, and is #sciart #scicomm?” she asked twitter that night.
“I would say that the #scicomm, #sciart is like a highly overlapping Venn diagram,” Said biology undergraduate and science artist herself, Hannah Brazeau during the week she ran the twitter account @iamsciart. “But they can be separated in some limited cases. [For example]: a botanical illustration [without] accompanying information. If [the] audience just sees something pretty, it’s #sciart, but not #scicomm.”
There were agreements with this statement, as user Peggy Muddles said that her science art pendants weren’t considered to be a form of good science communication.
But when science art and science communication do blend well together, they become imperative.
Hannah argued that science communication couldn’t even exist without science art. “Science Communication without infographics?” She pondered. “Oh my.”
Conservation Geographer and Photographer, Alena Ebeling-Schuld, seemed to agree. “A lot of people learn visually and can understand [a] concept much better when presented in this form,” She tweeted out. “Plus,” She continued. “In a social media age, #sciart attracts viewers’ attention through colour and beauty. It connects people with the message!”
That being said …artists often times don’t get paid very much for their work.
Though science art is needed when it comes to science communication, the piece of the puzzle that’s missing is realizing how much work an artists really brings to their pieces.
When Sarah asked: “Regardless of [your] profession or field, do you earn a living on your passion? Or do you work to support your passion?” the idea of making a living from science art made Moiety chuckle.
“Earn a living from #sciart?” Hannah asked. “Hold on, I need to stop laughing first.”
She went on to say that she has a day job, and thankfully, she does make enough money from science art each month to over at least one bill. However, this is certainly not the case for every artist.
When I spoke to Hannah directly that day, she noted that there was a high expectation of free art in the science communication community. “The expectation of free art is sadly quite common in scicomm.”
Taking for granted the use of artwork when it comes to science communication is something that needs to be addressed. We’re lucky enough to have scientific artwork presented with the communication with science in just about everything. Whether that’s beautiful photos taken next to National Geographic articles, or hand-painted or drawn works of skeletons or bugs (like Glendon Mellow’s wonderful works), or digitally created infographics that draw a point home.
We need to realize, as a community, how important science art is to science communication, and not take artists for granted.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM. Find her on Twitter.