Of course, there’s a dark side to it — or at least a stupid side. That would be when celebrities spout pseudo-science and their utterances transform myths to reality by virtue of being repeated endlessly via the Internet and video.
In essence, some part of the “celebrity makeover” for science is what I do: try to find the stories inherent in tech and science that may actually be news, and find a way to make them accessible to regular people. Well, more than accessible. Interesting. Cool. Sexy, even. Because some of the things I come across in my work ARE hot. Pupils-dilating, pulse-quickening hot — some of my clients could seriously change the world for the better.
I essentially translate them from uber-geekiness to something where a journalist (and that includes citizen journalists) could say: hot? or not?
So yeah, I think science does need PR. I heard a radio show asking why we were spending any money investigating Mars — or any money on NASA, period.
Where is the sense of wonder? Of intuiting that the more we understand, the more there is to know? Or that we are just one piece in a huge food chain? Can it be fixed with more celebrity-coolness, if that is the current coin of the realm?
With the war in Iraq, the economy, hurricanes and gas prices — well, science may not seem like a high priority. Mars is an extreme example of scientific inquiry, literally and figuratively miles away from the forces weighing down on us.
But that’s why it’s up to scientists — and the media, and the PR peeps that help feed the media — to do that “celebrity makeover” on science. By all means, keep out the disinformation and misinformation — but somehow, science and tech need to communicate the same glamour and “gotta talk about it” urgency as the latest news on Rihanna‘s bag, Brangelina’s twins, Barack Obama’s flag pin, or whatever else is in our collective face that day. And with apologies to Bill Gates and Bill Clinton — maybe we need Brangelina’s oomph to get actual, accurate scientific excitement going again.
But until then — here’s to all the people who see the sexiness in science — and their efforts to discover and show the amazing and incredible joy in it.
Cuz that’s hot.