Can we really relate to a general adult audience? That’s the million dollar question for all SciCommers. The team behind Frontiers for Young Minds chooses a unique approach: they tackle the hurdles of understanding by engaging kids as reviewers.
Do you remember those long seemingly endless school summer holidays when you would bug your parents with never-ending questions, simply because you were curious? How about now as a grown-up? Still asking as many questions about everything that sparks your mind? No? For many of us, the frustration as a kid of sometimes getting the answer ‘that’s too complicated for you to understand’ has regrettably turned into the hesitation to ask questions that as an adult ‘you are supposed to know the answer to’.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the lucky ones, and must have felt a sense of empowerment to keep that curiosity and ask questions. Asking questions and feeling eligible to ask questions is just as much a key aspect in education as answering these questions. Still, the main challenge remains: how to get your message across?
During sci-comm training, a big emphasis is being put on knowing your audience and relating to them. But if we’re honest: can we really relate to a general adult audience? How would you define a general audience anyway when we each have so much diversity in us? Aren’t we bound to make mistakes in how we address this ‘general adult audience’ if we don’t know how to relate to them? Why not make it simpler and go back to a shared experience we all can relate to – our childhood.
If we involve kids in our science communication process, wouldn’t we tackle all these mentioned hurdles at once? Are kids not the ones who still dare to ask the necessary questions? Why not take their questions seriously, and explain in simpler form without dumbing it down, for all to understand. Scientific discoveries are made daily, and there’s no reason why some should have access to that knowledge over others – both adults and kids.
At Frontiers for Young Minds, a non-profit Open Access science journal for children and teens, our goal is to do just that – to make cutting-edge research available to young readers and as a result appropriate for a general public. Not only does this result in a freely available educational outreach resource, it also offers a valuable channel for scientists to become better communicators. In our innovative model, the articles are written by active scientists, and reviewed by our Young Reviewers (age 8–15) for their own peers.
In every review, our Young Minds are introduced to the world of a scientist, they get to know the benefits of collaborative peer-review, and perhaps most importantly: they are encouraged to act as the experts that they are. By asking and answering questions, they are empowered to be the scientists of the future.
However, it is not all magic and fairytales: there are always more dragons to slay. While we can all agree on making science open and accessible for all, it still requires time and effort from the researchers to adapt their work for a younger audience. The challenge now lies in making this a priority for the scientific community and highlighting that the benefits may not be measurable in the traditional academic sense.
Want to re-ignite that curiosity for science before the summer is over? Encourage people to keep on asking questions, keep on challenging the experts, and perhaps reconsider how to relate to your audience. Don’t know the answer to a science question? Maybe you’ll find it in one of our articles.
Emma Clayton & Hedwig Ens
The Frontiers for Young Minds Editorial Team