Visual Narratives For Science Communication

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I have a little announcement to make, so please allow me an unusually long post.

When I decided to become a freelance cartoonist in 2013, after finishing my PhD, I never seriously considered returning to academia. I simply didn’t think there would be an institution that would accommodate – even less support – my strange mix of interests. And probably there wasn’t, until Columbia University created the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience (PSSN for short) with the ambitious goal of creating:

a new paradigm for interdisciplinary university-sponsored research to advance understanding of mind, brain, and behavior, and the social foundations and consequences of new neuroscientific findings.
I only discovered the program in September 2015, when I first travelled to New York, and I just couldn’t believe my luck. The PSSN postdoc seemed like the position of my dreams and the next round of submission was only a few months away. I immediately started working on a proposal titled ‘Visual Narratives for Science Communication‘ and thinking of ways to bridge the gap between the apparently  distant worlds of science and comics.

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The good news is that my proposal was accepted! This means that I will have the chance to fully develop this interdisciplinary project and explore how we can use visual narratives to communicate science. I think the proliferation of science-inspired cartoons, animations and webcomics already proves their great potential, but as a scientist I want to go deeper and try to understand the cognitive mechanisms behind visual narrative communication.

Because I think scientists need new communication tools and I believe comics can help us. My hope is that soon they will not be considered just some ‘funny’ way to talk about science but an essential tool for science education. I hope one day to see a professional community of science cartoonists just like the community of science journalists we have today.

Finally – and this is one of the main reasons for me to write this post – I want to make clear that I can’t do this alone. We need interdisciplinary answers for interdisciplinary problems. Luckily, over the past years, I have already met many brilliant people, from many different fields, willing to support me. But I’m sure there are more out there who can contribute to this new emerging field. So, if you are interested in this project, whether you are a scientist, a journalist, a cartoonist, a designer, or any combination of these and much more… please DO get in touch. I’d love to hear from you, what you think and how we can collaborate.

I have big plans and more news will follow soon but in the meanwhile thank you all for supporting my work. I hope you will join me on this new adventure.

6 thoughts on “Visual Narratives For Science Communication

  1. First, congrats for your postdoc admission.
    I am a begginer researcher from south of Brasil. Last year wrote (but didn´t publish yet) a discussion paper named “The Science Images”. I thing it dialogues with your perspective of narratives of/in science. Would you like to talk about or read ir in order to publish something together?
    Raquel Gularte Queiroz
    Graphic Designer
    Specialist in Design Management
    Art student
    Master student (in a interdisciplinary program with focus in knowledge)

    1. Hello,
      I am currently a post doc in India. I have previously developed comic books on history of electricity. I am a trained illustrator but I have this specific interest in using my illustration skills for science communication. I am happy to find that you have similar interest. I would like to share some of my comics on science with you to get feedback from your research background. Please share your email address.

  2. Congratulations. I am a retired scientist who is currently looking at a possible model of how a network of neurons can morph into an intelligent brain. This is based on some ideas I had some 40-50 years ago which were so unacceptable to the then “world expects” in Artificial Intelligence” that I was made redundant and the research was dropped. Needless to say those former experts are no longer held in such high esteem as most scientists now realise that their contributions has done little to really help us understand how the brain works.

    I believe – as clearly you do – that the humanities can offer a lot to science – and this is reflected in my blog http://www.trapped-by-the-box.blogspot.co.uk. – and I try and humanise my blog with some poetry and creative photographs.

    Finally I hope you don’t mind but I have also written a blog post about your scholarship – and have used one of your pictures (with acknowledgement) to illustrate it.

    1. Hi Chris, I only just saw this, but thanks for your support and the kind words on your blog. I think science needs all the help that it can get if we hope to truly understand ‘how the brain works’. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to change old habits but I’ll try to do my best to combine different disciplines.

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