8 September 2021
By Ben Marcus
For six years, I participated in one of the most impactful science communication endeavors I’ll ever embark on: I ran Science Unsealed, the blog from the Illinois Science Council. The ISC aims to give folks an opportunity to explore their scientific curiosity, and the blog was my opportunity to further their mission. Besides educating the public, running Science Unsealed did something extra for me: it helped me discover my passion for science writing.
When I was in graduate school, I witnessed colleagues make groundbreaking discoveries that no one outside my field of study, much less the public, would comprehend. At the same time, I saw rising resistance to climate change, genetically modified organisms, and vaccines (and this was before COVID-19). I knew something had to change to bring these communities together.
I found myself interested in writing, and when I learned that the ISC was open to starting a blog, I jumped right in. At first, the blog allowed me to explore what I was curious about: I interviewed friends about their research and I wrote about scientific topics and stories that I found fascinating. But as the blog grew in popularity, we found a brewing cohort of fellow academic scientists seeking an outlet to try their hand at science writing. We ultimately transformed the blog into a science workshop of sorts, helping dozens of writers hone their craft, gain confidence, and build their portfolios.
Through this process, I learned that science writing is not an “alternative” path for academic scientists but a natural extension of many scientists’ experiences. Yet many scientists don’t have an opportunity to publish their non-academic writing — or they don’t know it’s an option — and they struggle to transition into science communication.
I also learned that there is a large community of non-scientists who are entertained by science. By the time I left the ISC, we were attracting about 8,500 readers per month, a readership equal to many professionally published magazines.
Just like the chasm between scientific research and public knowledge of science, there exists a similar gap between scientists eager to share science and a public seeking to be entertained by it. The only way to fill that gap is for those with the knowledge and the passion to keep writing and publishing their work somewhere like Science Unsealed. There is an audience waiting for you!