Letter: More Time Communicating

John Wilkes' call for scientists to communicate more with the public (The Scientist, Jan. 8, 1990, page 15) is an excellent idea, but he seems to underestimate the negative consequences. In addition to being ignored by promotion and tenure committees for their popular writing and becoming the object of ridicule by colleagues, there is often open contempt shown for scientists who write for popular audiences. The recommendation to write a letter to the local newspaper sounds great, since a scient

David Hershey
Mar 4, 1990

John Wilkes' call for scientists to communicate more with the public (The Scientist, Jan. 8, 1990, page 15) is an excellent idea, but he seems to underestimate the negative consequences. In addition to being ignored by promotion and tenure committees for their popular writing and becoming the object of ridicule by colleagues, there is often open contempt shown for scientists who write for popular audiences. The recommendation to write a letter to the local newspaper sounds great, since a scientific viewpoint is too often absent from popular publications. However, writing letters is not without negative aspects, which include having your letter edited to say something other than what you meant, being ignored completely, or offending a large audience. Having submitted more than 90 letters to the editor for a combination of popular and scientific periodicals and having more than half published, I can attest to the disadvantages. Fortunately,...

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