The Perception of Scientists

There’s much to agree with in this piece, but I can’t accept the labelling of, e.g., Martyn Poliakoff as a “Stereotype” when he’s just a human being who isn’t afraid of being who he is. I suppose some would call him “eccentric” but that’s the way he is.

Accepting diversity means encouraging everyone to contribute in a way that reflects the person that they are, regardless of their gender, race, age or hairstyle. We should value our eccentrics for daring to be different. They’re the best kind of role models for an enquiring mind. Otherwise we run the risk of simply replacing one kind of conformity with another. So let’s keep it positive!

Now. Why aren’t there more science communicators with beards?

Politics, Perception, Philosophy. And Physics.

A response to Isabel Clarke’s blog post: ‘Have social media improved the perception of science?

Mitchell Guest

Ask a primary school age child to draw you a picture of a scientist, and most of us know exactly what they will draw. Inevitably, they will sketch out a white, middle aged man with unkept hair, in a white lab coat and glasses. This impression is one that many scientists have tried to dispel, using a variety of mediums and concepts. In Isabel Clarke’s blog post ‘Have social media improved the perception of science?’, she argues that by making science more accessible, by simplifying world-leading research articles, the barrier between scientists and the general population can be destroyed. There are many people and organisations attempting to do just that, and Isabel points to the likes of Henry Reich, creator of MinutePhysics (YouTube Subscribers – 2.58million) and Elise Andrew…

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4 Responses to “The Perception of Scientists”

  1. To me, a stereotypical scientist is under 35 and female, since that is the main demographic doing physics outreach, and the Leicester post grads were 11:1 female in X-ray astronomy when I finished my phd. I realise that is not typical, but it cannot be unique, surely?

  2. “Accepting diversity means encouraging everyone to contribute in a way that reflects the person that they are, regardless of their gender, race, age or hairstyle.”

    I think science, or at least astronomy/astrophysics/cosmology, is pretty well off here. Even well after the 1970s had passed, men with long hair and/or beards have been not uncommon. Some genders and races are underrepresented, but a) this is due much more to factors outside of the direct control of the community and b) they are overrepresented elsewhere. Age doesn’t seem to matter much, but sometimes there is the expectation that everyone have a linear career, and some people are confused by the lack of one.

  3. Though not a beard per se, the science communicator par excellence, the Good Doctor himself, Isaac Asimov, sported a wonderful set of mutton chops for the last 20 or so years of his life:

    Asimov was one of my biggest influences, if not the biggest. Although best known for science fiction (which I came to quite late, after having read a hundred or so of his non-fiction books), most of his books were non-fiction. Most were on science, but he also wrote on a huge array of other subjects: several hundred pages of jokes, books of limericks, a spoof of self-help books on sex, history (certainly the most enjoyable books on history I have read), annotated Shakespeare and Don Juan, linguistics, a couple of thousand pages of autobiography—you name it.

    • Getting back to the diversity theme, Asimov wrote The Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science, basically one (thick) book surveying all of science, split about 50/50 between living and non-living. This was, IIRC, in the 1960s. (A later edition was The New Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science an the next one, to avoid “new new”, simply Asimov’s Guide to Science.) A woman mentioned that the title was somewhat chauvinistic, to which the Good Doctor quipped “No, I’m the “intelligent man”! 🙂

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