A Woman In Science, Science Outreach

Science communication – Your brain on Shannon Odell

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Explaining science to a lay audience in a simplified way is actually critical to capture the interest of the public. Most people want to learn about the basic biological processes governing everyday situation, but they usually find it difficult to understand scientific reports because of the technical jargon and the academic stereotyped tone. There is a growing demand for popular science in order to inform the non-scientists about the latest scientific discoveries. It is important to bring science to them to avoid misinformation - which nowadays spreads easily. It is also important to raise awareness among the general public about the effects of common products or the significance of specific situations to help them in their decision-making. Science communication can generate support for scientific studies by giving enough information to the public, which can in turn be actively engaged in science promotion and put pressure on political representatives (for instance, by voting for a candidate with a better R&D programme). The dissemination of knowledge is also essential to motivate young generations to join the movement and stand for the future of science.

Shannon Odell is a neuroscience PhD candidate living in New York who is highly involved in science communication. She co-created a web series of videos on the Inverse YouTube channel to explain what’s happening in your brain in various contexts. “Your brain on [blank]” explains the science and mechanisms triggered by various external stimuli - from music to meditation to sugar. In five minutes-long videos, she is telling in a lively way the main events going on creating a very common context. Obviously, not all the information on one subject can be covered in such short time, but the videos are yet educative and entertaining. For example, in the video about the brain on caffeine she described the chemistry behind caffein intake, which receptors become activated, the engaged cognitive processes and effects on behaviour… Odell's videos are intended for a general public, to convey the meaning of scientific facts in a fun and accessible way. The science behind everyday life is simplified but not to an insane degree, which is making it still attractive to scientists.

Shannon has also her own YouTube channel in which she is weekly answering questions on different scientific topics that were asked on her Instagram (@shodel). Here, she has already talked about the skin, the placebo effect, the black-out when you’re drunk, what spirituality brings you and many other topics.

In her quest to communicate about science, she is also co-hosting Drunk Science, an experimental comedy show in Brooklyn. Every month, three intoxicated comedians compete to present the best scientific dissertation to a real scientist. The idea is to answer big scientific questions with humour.

Shannon’s initiative is remarkable and should inspire scientists to be more active in science diffusion. The scientific education of the general public through entertaining posts, shows, videos and podcasts is actually the best way to attract people’s interest and promote science.

Written by Isabelle Arnoux; Edited by Chiara Galante. Featured Image: NGC/Design.

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