Leslie Hale started studying science early in her education. She attended a magnet high school for science and engineering and in college, she participated in honors program of her state university. In 1989, she graduated with a BS in geology. Since then, Hale has traded research for collections management. She now works as collection manager of rocks and ores at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
How often do you read science stories online or in print, or watch/listen to them via television or radio?
I love to read, and I also love science. I subscribe to and have daily home delivery of the Washington Post and the New York Times. Both newspapers have science sections on Tuesdays that I regularly read. I don’t watch much television, but I do sometimes hear science related news stories on WTOP news radio. I sometimes enjoy it, and other times find it too technical, especially if the subject is not my field. I think I am primarily influenced by the ability to choose when I receive the news.
What inspired you to work in a position that includes scientific research?
My love of science! I feel fortunate to be in a position that supports science, without having to ride the grant funding merry-go-round. For me, the hardest part is attempting to communicate facts, and explaining why they are not opinions.
Do you think it’s important for scientists to communicate about their research?
Yes, absolutely, or what’s the point of doing it?
Do you think that scientists may sometimes have trouble communicating their research?
Communication skills are not typically the top priority when hiring a scientist. Sometimes, but not always, they have trouble communicating with journalists. As for scientists communicating directly to the public, it’s fantastic, when done well, and a catastrophe when done poorly. Folks in non-science fields tend to use a vocabulary that is more readily understandable to the general public, with fewer technical terms that are not broadly understood.
Do you think that policy makers/influencers and the public can influence how science topics are covered or researched?
Yes, for policymakers, especially through control of funding streams. It seems like WHERE the information is presented influences how or whether the public accepts the information, due to the political polarization of the US. Science communication in the U.S., right now, is being unduly influenced by politics, and becoming increasingly difficult to identify and discover unbiased sources. If I would change anything, it would be to separate science from politics.
This interview was conducted via email | Photo by Artem Kniaz on Unsplash