Unit 1: Science and Science Writing Discussion

Read Hope Jahren's introduction to The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017  (xvi-xx). She writes,

"The most precious currency of science is new ideas."

Consider this idea in terms of other pieces of science and nature writing you have read. You are welcome to consider books. articles, or news articles as examples. Do believe this quote describes the necessary elements of successful science and nature writing? Why or why not? How should scientists connect with their audiences in writing? Does a science writer need to use different skills to connect with both lay readers and other scientists?

Write your response as a comment to this page.

(Remember - I must be able to see your first and last name)

30 thoughts on “Unit 1: Science and Science Writing Discussion

  1. Briana Shaffer

    The quote “The most precious currency is the science of new ideas.”, describes an important part of successful nature and science writing, without new ideas, how are we as humans and our research supposed to evolve. If no one sowed the new “idea” seeds of the loblolly pine then how would it have eventually evolved into the FACE project? Without new ideas, new discoveries and new situations cant come to light.

    In order for scientists to connect to their audiences in writing they need to understand their audience. Scientists need to put in quite an amount of effort to analyze and know what is important to who they want to speak to, they may need to adjust to use a medium that relates to their audience or even write in a way that captivates what is important to who they want to speak to. As with any writer, you need to adapt to your audience to connect and keep the reader or listener interested instead of bored or lost.

  2. Olive Hager

    This quote rephrases the importance of updated information. If you’re basing your research off of someone else’s information, you’ll want to give yourself as good of a head start as you can. Using outdated or stale information won’t get people to read your articles nor fund your research.

    How the scientist connects with the reader should have to do with their anticipated audience. Using a lot of advanced terminology would be appropriate when geared towards someone in a similar field. If it is for the average reader, the word choice should be adjusted and how the information is applicable to the “real world” should be revealed to the reader.

    1. Conall Birkholz

      I like your interpretation of the quote. I also think that updating information is very important in the scientific sector. As our society changes, are language changes with it. For important information to be transferred through the decades, people essentially translating older information into easier to understand literature is critical for past research to be useful.

    2. Victoria Murdock

      I like your description of the quote. In my opinion you based it off of how people come up with new ideas, they go off of someone else’s research. Then they compose their own ideas of all of the collected information, and published research. As far as people funding the research, I do think people will fund it if it is eye catching and they think they can add to it.

  3. Conall Birkholz

    The quote “The most precious currency of science is new ideas”, I think very well encompasses the spirit that is needed for science to constantly be breaking new barriers and advancing our society. In the passage, the author stated that she was “sensitive to stories that illuminated the life of the individual scientist and showed all the different ways that science can be practiced.” (xix) Along with new ideas coming to the forefront in science and research, the way science is conducted and practiced I think is also revealing of the mysteries of nature and ourselves. It also takes a creative mind to take new research and ideas and consolidate them into readable and understandable material.

    For scientists to connect to their audience and explain what they are researching or have discovered, I think it is important for the literature to appear relatable in some way to the general reader. This will keep the reader interested and find the content more interesting. If a scientist is writing to other scientists on the other hand, I think the approach should be different. A more structured and formal approach that can contain much more specific vocabulary relative to the field, and liberties can be made as to what the reader may already know so it doesn’t need to be explained in depth.

    1. Christina Beaver

      I like what you said about the different types of paper the scientist should write about, as well as how you even talk about a way for the scientists make it relatable for general readers.

    2. Ashley Bolyard

      “Breaking new barriers” is a perfect analogy to describing new ideas and the progression. And you are right; it does take a creative mind to think outside of what is already known to for new research and ideas.

    3. Jessica Hernandez

      I liked how you said that in order for scientist to connect with their audience they need to explain what they have discovered. Which also comes back to the point of new ideas and how it is one of the most precious currency for scientist.
      This was a great post! Good luck this semester.
      Thank you.

  4. Jesse Coulman

    Hope Jahren said “The most precious currency of science is new ideas”, and I agree. Scientific advancement thrives from new ideas, without the countless people throughout history thinking and dreaming up ways to improve there lives and increase their understanding of the world around them we as a species would never have advanced as far as we have.
    When trying to connect with an audience through your writing the author must consider the audience themselves. Depending on whether and author is writing for children, average joe’s, or professionals the writing style will need to be tweaked to better be related to and understood by the audience. When writing for professionals the vocabulary can change, abbreviations can be used, and one could assume a certain level of understanding. When talking with children, the vocabulary would be a lot simpler, and explanations would need to be more substantial.

    1. Makayla Duhon

      I definitely agree with you. Humanity would be nowhere right now. Everything starts with an idea and if no one had any new ideas, who knows if we would have existed this far.

  5. Victoria Murdock

    The quote ” The most precious currency of science is new ideas.” I agree all the way with the quote. I think without science and new ideas the world will be ceased, and things such as technology, agriculture and medicine will not expand. The three most important things to humans. As the book mentioned about the loblolly trees being cut down, and replanted and perfected 60 years later, means that people have come up with new ideas to make it better. It was made better by them creating scaffolds and adding more carbon dioxide in the air.

    A way for scientist to connect with their audiences, are first to understand them; and the level of education they have in order to know which level of scientific language to use. If the scientist keeps all of that in mind they can easily grasp the audiences attention. Also, the information has to be somewhat in context for them to want to read or listen in the first place.

    1. Olive Hager

      Absolutely. In my last writing class I remember being told most people prefer to read a grade level below what they’re capable of. I think you’re right that the proper context needs to be set for them, too.

    2. Miranda Jackovich

      I thought you gave a perfect example talking about how in order for scientist to connect with readers they have to take account for the level of education. Including trying to keep in mind what the reader is trying to take away. Referencing to new ideas in science, it’s not just important for technology, agriculture, and medicine but also how society communicates with each other. I thought you had great points, good luck in class.

  6. Christina Beaver

    The quote from Hope Jahren is a great way to describe the necessary elements of sucessful science and nature. Its clean Jahren chooses her words carefully. When she uses the word precious it reminds me of the word rare if we replace those two words we get: the rarest currency of science is new ideas. From there, you can come to the new conclusion that without new ideas we aren’t going anywhere. To expand and grow we need to have new ideas circulating.
    An important thing for scientist when writing is thinking about their audiences. An explanation of their new finding may look different if it was going to another scientist or someone who doesn’t have any background in science. The scientists would have to choose words carefully, so their audiences can understand.

  7. Amber Wofford

    The quote that Hope Jahren used explains very well how the ideas and continuing to learn is imperative to succeed. Just like in medicine, best practice is always changing and adapting to its environment. We do not treat infections today like we did a hundred years ago. Yes, we may still use antibiotics to treat a patient but the what we use and how is different because we know so much more now. Evolving in science is similar, constantly changing and has to be in order to advance.
    A science writer will write to his peers and explain theories and use language that any person who isn’t familiar will not understand. When I read an article or a book and it doesn’t have anything I can relate to or doesn’t catch my interest then I’m going to skip over it or not comprehend any of the material. Reading what you can understand or anything that is explained in detail to where most audiences will understand will attract more readers. With any style writing, you want to write about something that your audience is interested in and want to hear about.

  8. Lindsey Paulsen

    The “Introduction” to The Best American Science and Nature Writing brought up many of topics involving controversy and concerning issues, as well as their solutions and peoples’ efforts to explain and explore those issues. Hope Jahren’s viewpoints on the topics she summarized were not clearly stated, as she effectively remained impartial. After reading the introduction and skimming through the other various passages of The Best American Science and Nature Writing, I am beginning to find that impartiality is basic with and crucial to scientific writing and literature. Science is factual and broad. In my opinion, while writing scientific material one must remain unbiased to create emphasis on the information portrayed and give meaning and strength to the topics discussed.
    I was saddened to read the first paragraph of the introduction, for I am passionate about preserving our natural world. I find that worldly practices such as deforestation or pollution are upsetting, but are also the most powerful motivation for humanity to attempt making the world a better place. These inspired efforts improve individual’s lives as well as slowly improving our planet. The next few paragraphs on Duke University’s CO2 experiment are evidence of that. Endeavors such as this potentially give hope to our society and sparks motivation to those who read about it. Jahren definitely had an idea of what type of audience she was writing for: the knowledge seeker and the analyst (or student).
    When Jahren states, “the most precious currency of science is new ideas”, I completely agree. When revolutionary scientific breakthroughs have been made, they all began with new ideas, plenty of hard thinking, and then epiphanies followed by more hard work. This is evident in the discoveries of matter being made up of atoms, electricity, and Darwin’s evolutional theory of natural selection. This being said, a scientific breakthrough most commonly comes from a new idea or “dream”. All in all, science itself began with ideas, and brought us to this day in time, where scientific knowledge is far more abundant than it was for our scientist forefathers.

  9. Makayla Duhon

    “The most precious currency of science is new ideas.” I believe this quote speaks the truth is many ways. Science can’t thrive without new ideas. New ideas are worth more than gold to scientists. We wouldn’t be where we are today if everyone gave up after their first try of inventing something. Life as we know it would be completely different.
    I believe science writers should be able to get their point across while still grabbing the audiences attention. Most readers won’t understand the scientific language and will easily grow bored, so having some common words and descriptions, maybe even some pictures, can help the reader. Also, almost everyone reads their articles online and science writers will need to have some sort of hook that will make the reader click on their link and just the right about of relatable facts to keep them reading.

    1. Miranda Jackovich

      I think you make some great points about how to help the readers to understand with pictures and description. If you read a book about a specific science and have no reference of the topic it can get confusing. Also I agree about catching the readers eye, with so many articles online they can get cluttered. Great ideas and good luck in the class!

  10. Jerry Carroll

    The quote, “The most precious currency of science is new ideas” by Hope Jahren is a very true statement. Without new ideas science would not be exciting. New ideas in science and nature are always exciting and fun to learn about.
    Something that i think science writers can do to help grab attention of others is asking a simple question on the topic. Something interesting but keep on the subject.
    I think most scientific pieces that I have read made sense and was written well enough for me to understand. On the other hand. some people won’t understand the writing. The skills that a science writer should use would depend on the audience the piece is intended for.

  11. Daniel Allred

    When Hope Jahren said, “The most precious currency of science is new ideas” (p.xviii), she was absolutely correct. I believe that this quote describes the necessary elements of successful science and nature writing. In science and nature writing new ideas are exchanged instead of a tangible item, such as money. It is this exchange of new ideas that lead to scientific growth. Hope Jahren uses a perfect example when she describes Duke’s FACE forest. If those scientists hadn’t thought to try feed the trees with CO2 then there wouldn’t be a plush forest there now.
    In science and nature writing it is very important for the writer to consider the audience. When they are writing research paper that other scientist read then it’s perfectly acceptable to use complicated or specific words that their peers will understand. While writing for the public it is important that they remember the audience will know much less about the subject and could become lost or lose interest very easily.

    Daniel Allred

    1. Ashley Bolyard

      I love how you used the example from the introduction to depict the new idea of using CO2 to make the forest plusher.

  12. mjackovich

    “The most precious currency of science is new ideas.”
    I definitely think new ideas are a important element of science and nature writing. But I also think there are other elements that are just as important. Showing evidence to back up theory’s are crucial. I believe letting readers know how each situation affects them and their daily lives. People today are busy and won’t give their time if it isn’t relevant to them. I think that having different ways to connect to readers and scientists are necessary. The same information should be shared but scientists are interested in the details, when most everyday readers do not.

  13. Rebekah Hamilton

    Hope Jahren was spot on when she wrote “The most precious currency of science is new ideas.” It perfectly describes the successfulness of science and nature writing. New ideas allow for growth and creativity that each and every scientists can build off of. If the world did not accept or allow for minds to come together to create new and innovative ideas, we would not have come as far as we are today. A science writer needs to also be able to adapt to the needs of their audience, analyzing how to connect and relay the information necessary for that specific group of people. Different skills are required of a science writer when relaying information to lay readers and other scientists. Understanding what kind of audience the science writer has in attendance will determine how they will relay all the specific information needed in a well thought out and understanding manner.

  14. Ashley Bolyard

    New ideas are what drives progression; that is why it is the most precious currency in sciences like Hope Jahren states. Because of new ideas, the science behind medicine is continually advancing. Back in October of 2018, West Virginia University performed the first forced ultrasound procedure on a patient with early stages of Alzheimer’s. (1) This potential advancement in neuroscience would not have happened if a scientist did not have a hypothesis on using ultrasound technology.
    With that being said, I completely agree with the quote. Without ideas, success in science would be non-existing. One idea will lead to another idea until it snowballs into a successful hypothesis or a disproven theory. Either way, the scientist can learn from the knowledge that has already been gained and then applies it to a new idea. Thus, ideas are precious currency that allows for advancement and more understanding of information.
    Information is communicated in various ways depending on the targeted audiences. The scientist will need to determine to what degree a particular audience will understand. If the scientist is expressing his hypothesis with other scientists at a convention, the scientist will use scientific terminology because they are aware of his audience. But if with other the scientist is explaining an idea to, say the government, language will need to be adjusted for everyone to understand in laymen’s term. A perfect example is when Sandur Pinchia, Google’s CEO, explained to the house judiciary committee how google works and data collection. (2) When Sandur explained to Representative Ms. Zoe Lofgren how the search functionality works within Google, Sandur had two option on how have his audience understand. He chose to describe how searching works in terms that everyone would understand; that way Sandur does not risk his message to get for getting overwhelmed within the technicality.
    An idea can potentially get lost if not communicating correctly to the various types of audiences, but at least there is an idea. Without ideas, life would remain stagnant; that is why they are considered precious currency, especially within the science community.

    Work cited:
    1. West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute Pioneers Promising New Alzheimer’s Therapy. WVU Medicine, October 17, 2018, https://wvumedicine.org/news/article/west-virginia-university-rockefeller-neuroscience-institute-pioneers-promising-new-alzheimer-s-thera/. Accessed January 20, 2019
    2. Google Data Collection. C-Span, December 11, 2018, https://www.c-span.org/video/?455607-1/google-ceo-sundar-pichai-testifies-data-privacy-bias-concerns. Accessed January 20, 2019

  15. Lane Ito

    I believe the quote about three pillars describes the necessary elements of successful writing in science and nature. From my understanding, the three pillars support the scientific method, which every scientist uses for their experiments. First, the argument is the theme, or the hypothesis at the start of the process. Next, the protagonist is the question the scientist is trying to substantiate. Finally, the cinema at the end is the answer which either proves or disproves the hypothesis.

    Looking back at the introduction to The Best American Science & Nature Writing 2017, the experiment involving carbon dioxide and trees caught my interest. This section impacted me because I like natural sciences and I am familiar with photosynthesis and efforts to replant forests. I was extremely shocked to read about how quickly the trees outgrew the scaffolds after enough carbon dioxide was pumped into the air, and to think the whole experiment had a two million dollar cost to taxpayers every year in order to keep the experiment up and running. Personally, I did not think the process of photosynthesis could be accelerated like stated in the introduction.

    When scientists are writing out the full process of the experiment, they need to connect with the reader in a way that appeals to the scientists’ ideas, and informs the reader of the experiment and the results. Additionally, each scientist needs to be concise when writing about the subject of the experiment. This way, any scientist can understand another scientist and their ideas, as well as gain support from the reader.

  16. Logan Borger

    Science relies upon new ideas, new breakthroughs, and new conversations. Because of these reasons, I strongly agree with this quote. Without a catalyst to propel us to new discoveries, we are at a standstill, which makes new ideas fundamental to science. On the contrary, I do not believe that there must always be new ideas to make science and nature writing “successful”. Sometimes, successful writing can simply be educating or reporting observations. I believe that this is still progress in the right direction. Not every paper is going to be revolutionary and that’s alright.

    Scientists can connect with their audiences by understanding who their audience is. This will vary a great deal between connecting with general readers and other scientists. General readers will rely on relatable comparisons to understand the concepts, while well-read scientists will probably be able to understand advanced terminology.

    1. Lane Ito

      I agree with your statement. Not every piece of science and nature writing will be revolutionary because the truth is always changing with every new discovery. Finally, I also believe successful writing is progress in the right direction.

  17. Jessica Hernandez

    The quote “The most precious currency of science is new ideas” is a perfect representation of how all scientist feel. When put into there jobs they find so many ways for this world to advance. It’s like a growing child for example, when they are born they are not sure of the life advances until you put that one idea to let the journey roll. I honestly see that without the new ideas where would we be now? This is extremely important to remember since we as humans demand so much. I believe that new ideas are the most precious currency because without it we would still be living in the stone age.

    I feel the way scientist should connect with the audience is understand the people they want to connect with. If it’s in small children they should layman terms since the children may not fully understand the words being spoked. The science writer definitely does need to use different skills to connect with different readers since everyone is different and not everyone understand what the writer is talking about with such knowledge.

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