HUMANIZING RESEARCH

New podcast produced by the UD Stigma and Health Inequities Lab interviews scientists about their research

It’s more important than ever for scientists to clearly yet casually communicate their research to the general public, suggests Valerie Earnshaw, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. Which is why she and her team of research assistants in the Stigma and Health Inequities Lab decided to start a podcast called Sex, Drugs & Science.

The idea first came to Earnshaw following an invited talk for the National Institutes of Health Office of Disease Prevention’s Mind the Gap webinar series in 2019. Speaking at the NIH is often considered a pinnacle achievement for scientists, so Earnshaw did not take the invitation lightly. She carefully planned what she would say and even practiced sections of the talk a few weeks earlier at an academic conference so she could receive feedback from her peers.

Earnshaw’s talk set a record for registrants for the webinar series, and Earnshaw thought the talk went really well. After the webinar, however, she received an email critiquing her manner of speaking. According to the letter writer, she didn’t sound enough like a scientist.

The letter writer offered unsolicited advice on her public speaking skills, which sounded a lot like advice on how to sound more like a man. At first Earnshaw felt embarrassed and upset, and later angry. Eventually, the letter got her thinking more generally about how scientists communicate with the public.

“How do you know what a scientist sounds like?” asks Earnshaw. “You might read our publications or see our research on the news, but most people don’t hear from scientists personally and don’t know who we are. So I became really interested in disseminating science in a way that was free,” so not a peer reviewed journal article behind a paywall, “and in a way that was conversational so anyone can understand.”

This is the story of how a podcast was born.

Read the full article in UDaily