Scientists can struggle to explain their research in a way that makes sense to the public.
Actor, director and writer Alan Alda is on a mission to change this.
A partnership between Alda and Scripps Research was announced Jan. 16 that will teach scientists how to better communicate to the public, policymakers and investors.
Alda played Hawkeye Pierce on the television series “M*ASH,” and recently starred as a divorce attorney in Netflix’s “Marriage Story,” which was nominated for six Oscars.
He veered into science communication as the host of “Scientific American Frontiers” on PBS for 11 years.
His collaboration with San Diego-based Scripps marks the West Coast debut of Alda Communication Training. The program was preceded by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, which since 2009 has trained more than 15,000 scientists in communication.
Alda and Scripps leaders announced the new partnership at a Scripps auditorium teeming with scientists and biotech executives.
He explained that the trainings are steeped in improvisational acting methods. Alda learned just how valuable improv techniques can be when he interviewed top scientists on “Scientific American Frontiers.”
“It helped me relate and connect,” he said.
The Value of Ignorance
In addition, he wasn’t afraid to speak up when a scientific concept didn’t make sense to him.
Alda joked that initially he “didn’t realize the value of ignorance. I have a natural supply of it.”
Largely because of his work training scientists in communication, Alda in 2016 won the National Academy of Sciences’ highest honor, the Public Welfare Medal.
Alda said he linked up with Scripps because of the organization’s prestige in the scientific community. Recently, more than 30 Scripps scientists took part in Alda’s training program. A two-day training at Scripps — geared toward scientists and industry executives — will be held in June, followed by more workshops. Register at aldacommunicationtraining.com/workshops.