It took me a long time to fully believe that statement. As someone who didn’t excel with numbers or sciences in school, and pursued an Arts education in university, I felt that science was for other people.
Most children have preferred subjects, and by middle school understand where their academic strengths, and weakness, lie, which usually leads to the engrained practice of categorizing people, in this case as either aligned with Arts or Science. When I was young, I knew I had a visually creative streak, enjoyed English, and found math maddening. I unknowingly created, participated in, or adopted labels that built up walls, real or imagined, about what I could or would participate in. Science wasn’t my thing.
Thankfully, education pedagogy is evolving in sync with growing social awareness about the hazards of creating labels, whether they be related to gender, sexuality, or normative family or career roles. For example, programs like StFX’s Bachelor of Arts and Science in Climate and Environment serves students who seek an interdisciplinary education. It allows students to engage in multiple arenas, or at least envision themselves as having the option to participate in either side of the Arts-Sciences spectrum.
I’ve always been impressed by those who naturally have technical or mathematical inclinations and felt that my role was that of an observer. I held that belief when I joined this incredible research group. I saw my role as distinctly different from that of the students and technicians; I was an assistant to all things untechnical, a facilitator and communicator. I’ve come to recognize that there is the doing of science, performed by our talented lab members (aside from yours truly) who do things like create better ways to collect gas samples and design computer programs to analyze results, and then there is the act of making science and research relevant.
Allowing science to exist only within the science community is a disservice to all. It disregards the search for answers and truth that drives the scientific process and undercuts the value of science education. And not education for the sake of education, but real-world, science-based problem solving that helps better nature and humanity. Like the creation of effective vaccines; cheap water filtration systems for households without clean drinking water and cleaning up the great pacific garbage patch.
Like FluxLab’s methane inventory research that shows much more methane is emitted by Canada’s oil and gas industry than anyone realizes, and how better monitoring solutions can reduce emissions and its potential impact on global warming, human health, and the economy.
Making the nitty gritty of FluxLab’s work relevant first occurs at a micro level within project teams and across projects. Then it flows out to a macro level reaching government, industry, and the public where we craft a narrative showing how valuable our greenhouse gas research and mitigation solutions are. The act of sharing, reporting, and publicizing research findings widely is such an obvious part of good science, it can be overlooked as a distinct component of doing science.
Communicating our story is one of my responsibilities. I do this most effectively at conferences, through networking events, reporting to stakeholders, media relations, and here, on our website. Every year I gain more confidence to speak about our lab’s work and my communication platform has expanded accordingly. Having the opportunity to be an enabler of our research and a voice pulls me into the science world in a way that is meaningful. It helps advance the work of our lab via publicity and project funding. I argue that now I am part of the science world, an active participant, using my skills set and strengths in the pursuit of more, robust, relevant projects that answer questions that matter to the science community and, equally importantly, to those outside of it.
I’m not conducting research, but I am connecting research – to others.
After all, science is for everyone.