In my first post, I talked about how to find science information that’s written for scientists to read.
But sometimes we’re not interested in an intensely technical analysis! We may want a quick answer to a science-related question. Or, we may be absolutely ready to read a long article or book -- so long as it’s written for a general audience.
So, let’s talk about:
The way scientists talk to us non-scientists
The general public is a very diverse group, so there are a lot of reasons scientists might want to communicate with us, and a lot of reasons we might want to hear from them:
Some scientists actively reach out to a wide audience. There are many ways they might do this, but a few common ones are: giving public lectures, hosting community discussions, or writing newspaper columns or popular science books.
For some scientists, communication with the public is an important part of their formal role. Government researchers, for example, or scientists who work for public-oriented organizations like science museums or environmental nonprofits.
And sometimes, the interest comes straight from the public. We non-scientists want to know about the latest cancer research, about work that's being done to better predict the occurrence of wildfires, about breakthroughs in our understanding of the workings of the other planets in our solar system, and so on.
As you can see, scientists’ communication with the public might take a lot of different forms. How to navigate them all? Use your imagination, and always remember to ask the question, “How would scientists communicate about the question I’m exploring?” This can lead you to a wide array of resources that are designed to be read by regular people like you and me, such as:
Library subscription resources. Many library article databases and other special online-only tools feature for-the-layperson science information. Some of my favorites are AccessScience and Gale Virtual Reference Library.
Popular science books provide long-form exploration of a huge variety of science topics. But how do you find the newest popular science titles? You can find hot science reads in the New York Times’s monthly list of science bestsellers, Amazon’s best sellers in science & math or Goodreads’s list of science books most read this week. Of course, current science bestsellers are often in the library’s Lucky Day collection too, or you could always take a peek at one of the library’s science & technology-related reading lists.
Science journalism is a wonderful source for up-to-date and readable science information. Many large newspapers and networks have a whole section devoted to science reporting. Here’s a few that I like: the New York Times, Al Jazeera, the Los Angeles Times, and Fox News. In addition, the library has a number of popular science magazines such as Discover, National Geographic, Nature, New Scientist, Popular Science, Scientific American, and the Smithsonian magazine.
Government science organizations are great publishers of science information. My favorites are NASA, the United States Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.
Science museums and nonprofit organizations often have information for students and educators on their websites -- look for a section labelled “Education” or something similar. OMSI, the Burke Museum in Seattle, the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy are all good examples.
Now you should have a good start finding science information that’s designed for us non-scientists to read and use in our lives. Have fun learning, reading and exploring!
Remember, librarians are always happy to help you with your questions and research needs -- whether they’re science-related or not! So ask the librarian on duty the next time you’re at the library, or call or email us anytime.