Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and the cast of The Big Bang Theory are possibly pop culture’s most well-known science ambassadors today. Katharine Hayhoe, Ira Flatow, Elon Musk, Walter Isaacson, and Amory Lovins are others that aren’t in our pop culture, but are leading a cause. We can look in our history to science ambassadors Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, Rachel Carson, and Aldo Leopold. You don’t need a PhD or even a degree in science to be an ambassador. Bill Nye is an engineer and comedian. The Big Bang Theory cast are actors. Ira Flatow hosts a radio show. Teddy Roosevelt was a politician. Elon Musk is a CEO, investor, inventor, and anything else he wants to be. Whatever their role, I hope there is a science ambassador in your life. Better yet, I hope you are a science ambassador.
The role of a science ambassador is to educate and inspire. To communicate a greater popular understanding of science through science itself, entertainment, and/or action. Often the inspire and entertainment parts are more influential than the actual science. I saw a good video on Inc.com with Ping Fu, the founder of Geomagic. She states that it’s not the science that is going to influence girls to go into a science discipline, it’s being a role model. If she sets an example as an interesting person, then the girls may want to follow in her footsteps. It’s how you present yourself.
You certainly don’t have to be a celebrity to be an ambassador, which can be both a benefit and a hindrance. Bring the idea “think globally and act locally” to your ambassadorship. Share interesting scientific things on Facebook and Twitter, show your kids cool science experiments, or have an enthusiasm toward the science of your choice.
I’m going through a science renaissance, which has lead me to think of myself as a science ambassador again. It’s a combination of writing, speaking, watching and listening. Writing this blog and posting on Twitter; watching Cosmos has inspired me to get more involved in science; and listening to science podcasts. My favorites right now are Science Friday, Inquiring Minds, and Star Talk Radio. My job is science-based, but is not very technical. For the people I work for and with I’m know to them as “the environmental guy”. I’ll take that as a positive. I use this opportunity to educate and inspire an environmental science message to a larger audience.
I’ve profiled several people on this site that I would give the title “Science Ambassador”. Check them out. They include a Director of sustainability alliance, an Environmental Scientist, educators, a VP of a ski resort, and more.
Remember, good science ambassadors always bring donuts.