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Communicating Science

IFT is committed to providing the science of food community with resources and services necessary to enhance and advance their work. As we look ahead to the new year, helping scientists improve how they communicate scientific information is one of the areas we want to lend our support.

To do so, IFT recently revamped its food science advocacy web page to provide strategic guidance for communicating scientific information. Available resources include new tip sheets, templates, and various presentations on effective ways to connect with diverse audiences and convey technical information. 

We also tapped IFT’s Science and Policy Initiatives team, made up of individuals with varying expertise across the science of food, for their input about the importance of communicating scientific information to the broader public.

When asked about communicating science, IFT’s Chief Science and Technology Officer John Ruff, CFS, shared, “On an episode of his late night tv show, John Oliver discussed misinformation about science, focusing on food and health. It seems that as we advance our scientific understanding, we lose the public debate on the relevance of scientific data.”

“While we will soon, hopefully, overcome the current acute pandemic, the many chronic issues surrounding our food supply remain,” added Ruff. “We can all play a part. As food scientists, we must all seek to strengthen our communication skills, just as we focus on our scientific skills. We can use our personal experiences, as well as our knowledge, to engage with others. To be effective, we have to be willing to understand their concerns, as much as we try to impart our understanding.”

IFT’s Senior Food Traceability Manager Blake Harris recognizes that communicating science is essential because it is a key part of life.

“People think ‘science’ and they equate it with people in sterile laboratories running tests in glass beakers. I would argue that if you cook, you’re a scientist. You have a hypothesis on what ingredients would taste good together, you write down a recipe, taste test the recipe, and refine it until it is delicious. That is science and it can help us connect to new people, new ideas, and new experiences.”

When asked what advice he would share with fellow scientists, Harris suggests keeping it relatable. "Not everyone is a rocket scientist, but in one way or another, everyone is a scientist. Whether it’s a relationship, a hobby, or your job, you can’t go through life without developing theories, testing them out, learning from them, and adjusting your thoughts or actions. Breaking complex processes down into everyday concepts is important to maintain inclusivity.” 

“When science is communicated effectively, it’s easier for decision-makers to decide what the potential impact of the new information is worth and allocate funding accordingly. Without effective communication, better-marketed projects get funded regardless of their potential impact, and funding is not used to its full potential,” emphasized Harris. 

Feeling inspired to learn more and share your scientific knowledge with others? Check out IFT’s new communicating science web page for helpful resources and information. 

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