Storytelling Science, v. 1.0


As night falls after a long day of hiking, storytelling around a warm fire brings people together.

We humans have a long history of telling stories. Be it folklore or fable, allegory or saga, storytelling in all its varied forms helps transfer history, culture, and invaluable life lessons from one generation to the next. Before the advent of books, libraries, or data storage in digital “clouds,” stories were the encyclopedia of facts we left to our young. Captivating narratives helped us share experiences and new ideas. Humorous details with the right touch of empathy eased the pain of death and loss. Stories warned of hazards, instilled precautions, and triggered actions that saved lives. In our ever-changing world on an always-changing planet prone to environmental fluctuations between varying extremes, our ancestors paid attention to shifts in their environment.  They catalogued information generation after generation and packaged them into stories. Our penchant for storytelling thus became a vital survival skill for humankind.

Today, we stand on the edge of another epoch of change, in a climate of political division, at a time when science is being defunded, discredited, or denied.  How can scientists share information with the public if their research is met with blind skepticism?  One approach that is gaining ground in recent years it to go back to the tried and true methods of storytelling (see Martinez-Conde and Macknik, 2017).

In the coming days, I will post two stories written by students from California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) who are taking a class titled, “Marine Science in the Community.”  The goal of our class is for students to learn ways to engage with the public over matters of marine science.  To that end, the stories featured on this blog will reflect interests and concerns about climate change and future water shortages around Monterey Bay. I encourage readers to engage our young scientists with their thoughts and comments.  Let’s see if stories can help bridge a gap between scientists and the general public so everyone can understand each other a little better.

Thanks for reading DocOnMontereyBay,

Carol Reeb

Reference:  Martinez-Conde, S. and S.L. Macknik. 2017. Finding the plot in science storytelling in hopes of enhancing science communication.   Proc. Natl. Acad. 114(31): 8127-8129.  Click to read the free online text HERE.