Women Scientists Are More Adept Than Men in Showing the Public Relevance of Their Research

As part of the grant process, government agencies ask scientists to demonstrate that their research has public relevance. Researchers at Rice University in Houston and Southern Methodist University in Dallas have found that women are more adept at this process than men.

The study found that 58 percent of scientific researchers perform outreach efforts, defined as any activity in which scientists translate their research or broader scientific concepts to those outside of the academy. And of this group that makes an effort to reach out to the general public, 72 percent are women.

The study found that women scientists may have better communications skills which make them more comfortable discussing their research with the general public. One male biology professor interviewed for the study stated, “I’m not sure you want the scientists that I know here to go out and try to talk to the public. The public is going to say, ‘Stop spending my tax dollars on this person!’”

Co-author of the study Elaine Howard Ecklund, an associate professor of sociology at Rice University, said, “Our research shows that scientists often perceive themselves as having poor personal communication skills and have little confidence in their own abilities to do outreach, leading them to think they might actually hurt the public’s perception of science if they engage in outreach activities.”

The study, “How Academic Biologists and Physicists View Science Outreach,” can be read or downloaded here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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