When you think about calendars, scientists are pretty much the last thing that comes to mind – models, animals, cars, or landscapes usually fill that role. But just for moment picture a climate scientist in a slinky red dress and high heels, brandishing a fire extinguisher as she tries in vain to save the last remaining trees from a forest fire. Isn’t that a memorable image (see August)?
“We thought, how often does the public get to interact with scientists? We [all] talk to doctors a lot,” he added. “We go to the doctor very frequently and we have an idea of … what they look like and what they do. But how many people know what a geologist does?”
The makers of the Columbia University’s new “Climate Models” calendar thought so, and I can only say I agree with them. The idea came from Francesco Fiondella and Rebecca Fowler, communications officers with Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, respectively.
“It started originally as a joke,” said Fiondella. “But when we told the joke to more and more people, we were like wait, this could be a really fun way to engage the public.”
But it was a pretty expensive joke, as it requried $11.000 in funding, which were covered by a grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and then Kickstarter. So all that remained was the convince the climate scientists to actually pose for the calendar – which as it turns out, was pretty easy.
“They were totally game to get in front of the cameras and do some goofy poses and more serious ones,” Fowler said. “And they worked really hard with us on the text and the content inside the calendar, refining it over and over again to get a concise message about what it is they do.”
This actually showed a pretty significant problems: it’s often very hard for scientists to communicate – even when they are eager to do so.
“It showed us that scientists are in fact excited about communicating their work,” Fowler said. “They often get a bad rap for being poor communicators, but I think that’s not always the case. Sometimes they just don’t have the means to do so.