Science Communication — why should you care?

by Last updated Jun 27, 2020 | Published on Apr 28, 2020Newsletter0 comments

This week I planned to write about how SARS-CoV-2 has impacted some regulatory matters, namely the EMA new clinical trials guidance and the postponing of the Medical Devices Regulation.

But the importance of science communication never fails to rear its head in exceptional times, and I’m reminded of the stories of scientists like Ignaz Semmelweis, whose life-saving ideas about the importance of hand-washing were almost lost because he didn’t publish his research. The significance of science communication was again demonstrated more recently, in the spread of outrageous medical advice by a world leader with bad hair and an unfortunate Twitter account.


Sometimes I just want to shut down the noise, turn my back to the ridiculous tweets, and go back to my bubble of like-minded people, merrily chatting about how correlation is not causation.

Still, if I do that, if we all do that and keep to ourselves, standing apart in our ivory tower of knowledge, aren’t we letting the misinformation spread and fester?

“It’s now incumbent on those of us who are doing biomedical research to become science communicators, educate the public, and also our representatives and governments.”

— Michele Swanson, Ph.D., on TWiM #215


If you’re like me, your understanding of science came from many years of study, frustration, and breakthrough moments where you remodelled what you thought you knew — “what do you mean, professor, viruses are not alive?!?”

We’re doing a disservice to ourselves and the ones around us if we keep all this hard-won knowledge inside our skulls.


As a child, I remember being told that I was like a sponge, absorbing facts and information. Later, I’d struggle with this analogy, because what good is to be a sponge and keep everything to yourself?

The first step is to tease information out of your brain. You won’t be popular at parties, because this makes you look like a walking encyclopaedia, but now there’re no parties anyway, so it’s the perfect time to try. Write on a blog, on social media, or in a journal. Share accurate information and science bits. Do it for the sake of science and not for likes; the more we can counteract misinformation, the better.

In the second stage of your transformation from sponge to sprinkler of science, you can act like a filter. Use what you know from science to interpret and comment on general news. The other day, my dad asked me about a news article that said that a certain medicine that was produced here in Portugal was shown to be active against SARS-CoV-2. I looked into it and told him a couple of things, from the top of my head: that medicine (ivermectin) might be produced in Portugal, but its only human usage approval is in a cream form, for rosacea; that the fact it showed activity against SARS-CoV-2 in vitro doesn’t mean it will have activity in animal models, let alone in humans.

Explain to others how you’d like to have things explained to you: in a relaxed, conversational tone. With practice, you’ll get better at understanding who needs what knowledge, and when.

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

—T.S. Eliot

I’d like to tell you how to get into the wisdom stage, but I’m not there yet. I’m still dwelling in the encyclopaedia stage, and the filter one when I’m in a good day. I’m inspired by science communicators and aim to be half as good as they are, but if not, at least I’m not a sponge anymore.

I hope to have given you some things to consider, and some ways to make your knowledge accessible to those around you. Together we can improve the world’s understanding of science.

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About Diana Ribeiro

About Diana Ribeiro

Diana Ribeiro is a pharmacist and freelance medical writer based in Cascais, Portugal. Before starting her career in medical writing, Diana worked 10+ years in hospital and community pharmacies, where she helped patients and healthcare professionals with drug management and information. Nowadays, she helps pharma, biotech, and meddev companies communicate with their audiences in a clear, accurate, and compelling way. Diana is an active member of the European Medical Writers Association, where she volunteers for the webinar team. You can find more about her on LinkedIn.


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