Good advice

So I saw a comment over at Adventures in Ethics and Science (which is, by the way, a killer blog. If you don’t read it, you should).

In my experience, it does come down to a choice for parents of which authority to trust. No matter how hard I tried, as a young parent I could not evaluate the medical literature, and I didn’t get explanations from doctors. The sources that explained things simply and at my level of understanding came primarily from the CAM camp.
I read several Science blogs daily. I’ve improved my understanding of the vaccine issue as well as ID/Creationism vs evolution, probability theory, marine biology, the Monty Hall problem, microbiology, academic ethics and many other subjects, but I cannot assess a scientific study for myself. I’m grateful to Orac and Steve Novella, among others, that they often assess studies for me. As thrilled as I am to have had this resource, when I recommend blog posts to friends they don’t read them, because the posts are too long and use language the reader is unsure of. I don’t think most science bloggers have a clue as to what knowledge and thinking skills the general public have at their command.
Parents, especially poorly educated parents, especially parents who are not scientists or medical professionals, especially average parents, need to know whom they may trust.

It was in reference to Autism’s False Prophets, which is a book that I hope to be reading soon, (as soon as I get my hands on it, anyway). But the point is the same no matter what the topic. It makes me very worried that, with all my heavy sci-talk, I’m becoming unintelligible to those with whom I want to communicate. After all, I’m in science all day, every day, and it’s hard to remember sometimes that there are people who don’t know what a synapse is.
So I wanted to throw a a few questions out there: Is my stuff often difficult to understnad? What can I do to make myself better understood? Fellow bloggers, what have you done? Short of making every single post very long and full of tons of explanations, I am not really sure how to proceed. And I really want to to the word out about all the cool science that is out there. I would love some advice!

2 Responses

  1. To be honest, you sum up the main points and I get the general gist – but the fine points are often lost on me. I don’t know about regions of the brain. My last anything-near-biology was dissecting a frog in grade 10. I find your posts interesting, and I will continue to read them even if this is entirely out of my field and range of knowledge. I’m getting the gist of it and my eyes aren’t glazing over – which is something in itself. You are making the subject matter more accessible by writing.
    Could you split posts into beginner/intermediate knowledge levels? I’m not sure you’ll want to, but maybe periodically you could try writing one that bases itself on the reader having little knowledge beforehand, if any. A “Brain for Dummies” post once a month, or something.

  2. (Since you list pharmacology as a research interest), If you want a topic where there is confusion amongst lay people then the effectiveness of medications used to treat depression is a good choice (that isn’t covered that often elsewhere). Since you also list physiology as a speciality, then I’d love a post on why HIIT (high intensity impact training) works (if it really does) since most of the quick Google searches have returned either extremely dumbed down explanations or technical papers.
    And no, your posts aren’t difficult to understand, but I am about to go into Psyc grad school so I have some background in some concepts you discuss. The recent post on the adipose tissue expandability hypothesis was extremely interesting. The post on the role of AVPR1A on love was interesting but I already had exposure to the issues so I would not be in a good position to judge if it was too technical.
    Don’t be quick to judge whether a post was well received by the number of posts. I wouldn’t necessarily post because my area(s) of speciality are quite different so I wouldn’t add any value to the comments.

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