More than a pretty face: challenges in science communication.

As scientific research ever advances, it is becoming increasingly important that the latest academic developments are communicated quickly, effectively and accessibly. In our connected world, there is ample opportunity for aspiring science communicators to exercise this endeavour and demonstrate themselves as tomorrows educative influencers.  However, a recent study published in the peer reviewed journal, PNAS has revealed that the facial appearance of a scientist may be under as much scrutiny as the credibility of their research

The study, conducted Gheorghiu et al at Princeton University, found that the public perceived a “good scientist” exhibiting both competence and morality to be older, male, unsociable and unattractive. Whilst attractiveness was found to be a key feature affecting the perception of an individual’s research, good looks negated being a “good scientist”.  A physically appealing scientist was perceived to be a more compelling communicator, though a less competent researcher.

As a young white female, a confident researcher and a keen science communicator, I wonder what this means for my future career. My chosen industry now boasts its own library of peer-reviewed evidence suggesting that I will be judged on my appearance before my academic merit.

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the Gheorghiu et al findings; this bias of perception should be understood, discussed and explored if we are to break the gendered and social challenges many researchers face when trying to break into the industry of communicating ideas.

The original research paper can be found at: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/05/16/1620542114.full

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