“Institutes easily spend 200 thousand euros without reaching anyone.”

“Institutes easily spend 200 thousand euros without reaching anyone.”

Posted on Saturday If we knew what we were doing, this wouldn’t be called research, where scientists respond to the latest ideas in their field using a letter of the alphabet. Ionica Smits chooses the science communication style.

Jim Jansen

“Actually, ‘science communication’ is not a perfect term,” says Ionica Smits. “On the one hand, because people think that the word ‘communication’ is a one-way street of transmission and explanation. Others do not feel that it has been fully addressed because the word ‘science’ is in it. For example, many universities of applied sciences talk about ‘ Research communication.”

“You also see that some science communication is only for science students, like Famelab, which is a competition that trains PhD students to talk well about their research. Unfortunately, this is only available to people doing scientific or medical research. On the other hand, I wonder: what “You should name it too? Anyway, ‘scientific communication’ is a word that a lot of people can get behind and points in the right direction. That’s good enough for me.”

Great discomfort

This consideration characterizes Smits: well-thought-out, current, with a good sense of humor, and above all, practical. After receiving her Master’s degree in Technical Mathematics with honors from TU Delft in 2005, she went to Leiden to pursue a PhD in Number Theory. There I began blogging with Janine Daems about their subject, mainly because their Alpha friends complained that it was too hard to find something to read about mathematics.

Smits became a science journalist and added a column De Volkskrant. As she put it, she was upset about things that were not going well in science communication, especially on the science side. “Then I started thinking about how to effectively change that, and at first glance the answer was very simple: to become a professor. From this position I could train a new generation and do research on the things that aren’t working.”

“Too many times I have seen an institute easily spend €200,000 without reaching anyone. This makes me really angry. As a professor, I look at what is needed to improve this field. The last thing I did was, on behalf of outgoing Minister Robert Dijkgraaf, to put A work plan for the National Center of Expertise for Science and Society, which we hope to start sometime in the fall.

Dijkgraaf and Stephen

Smits doesn’t know exactly when we started communicating about science. It has a beautiful example of history. “I thought Simon Stephen was a standout,” she says. “De Thindi It was a pamphlet published in 1585 and was the first book in the Western world to use decimals. He introduced the decimal system into Dutch instead of Latin, the language in which he usually communicated, so that everyone could read it.

“His mission was for people to actually be able to use the knowledge. In addition to containing practical advice, he also tailored it to those users: carpet layers and surveyors. More recently, I think Robert Dijkgraaf has been very decisive in our field. As a scientist, he was uncontroversial and All kinds of places – in the newspaper, on television, on the rijjes.nl website and on stage – he made complex matters accessible to many people. The fact that as Minister he is now providing funds for the National Expertise Center is completely in line with this.

“De Thiende appeared in 1585 and was the first book in the Western world to use decimals,” says Smits.Plantin-Moretus Sculpture Museum, Antwerp – UNESCO World Heritage

A lot of information

She is often asked what works and what doesn’t work in science communication. She can’t help but smile when she remembers a lecture she gave to theoretical physicists. “Eric Verlinde organized this meeting and deliberately invited someone from a different field for a change. I showed his audience that in science communication it is often ineffective to present too much information if you want to persuade people.

“Then I came up with all kinds of studies that supported it, and the result was: a dull room and none of the physicists were convinced. Which exactly confirmed, ironically, that giving information doesn’t actually convince people. Now when I give a lecture – and this is my advice to every scientist – I start with examples And controversial stories. I explain things to them, try to convince them, and avoid jargon.

Ionica Smits says:

“As a professor, I look at what is needed to improve the field,” says Ionica Smits.Photo by Ivar Bell

the biography

Ionica Smits (Delft, October 8, 1979) is a mathematician, science journalist, columnist, television presenter, and professor of science communication at Leiden University. She has written several books about science and won the Iris Penning Award for Excellent Science Communication in October 2023.

Interview book

If we knew what we were doing, this wouldn’t be called research It is the fourth book by the Janssen brothers, comedian Dolf and science journalist Jim. The title is taken from a statement by Albert Einstein (1879-1955), not only the most important scientist of modern times, but also the most cited researcher of the past 200 years. In addition to Ionica Smits, climate scientist Valérie Truitt, theoretical physicist Robert Dijkgraaf, professor of artificial intelligence Frank van Harmelen, and professor of clinical neuropsychology Eric Scherder were interviewed.

If we knew what we were doing, this wouldn’t be called research
Jim Jansen and Dolph Jansen
Fontaine Publishers
12,50 euros, 128 pp.

See also  Tina: How do I get rid of unpleasant skin tags?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *