Science is often perceived as a realm of certainty and unambiguous results, driven by hard facts and unyielding logic. But in the real world, the process of scientific inquiry is laden with uncertainties, setbacks, and failed experiments. Today, we delve into a perspective that explores the less-travelled path of scientific communication, focusing on the theme of vulnerability.
In a recent episode of the Boma podcast, we had the privilege of conversing with Sarah Nyanchera Nyakeri, a molecular biologist, bioinformatics fellow at ILRI, and an inspiring science communicator. Sarah’s unique approach to science communication extends beyond the realm of scientific jargon, opening up conversations about the emotions and human side of science.
This is a blog written using ChapGPT 4 using a transcript from this podcast interview titled Sarah Nyakeri talks about vulnerability in… science? on the Boma podcast.
Sarah is the mind behind an intriguing podcast known as “The Vulnerable Scientist,” a name that, according to Sarah, intrigues non-scientists and shocks scientists. This title challenges the conventional perception of scientists as stoic, unyielding figures seldom seen outside of the context of their work. Instead, it invites listeners to a space where scientists can openly discuss their struggles, doubts, and moments of failure, as well as their triumphs and discoveries. This approach is a refreshing break from the traditional paradigm where scientists are expected to be invincible, unwavering figures.
In our discussion, Sarah stressed the importance of recognizing that failure is part and parcel of the scientific process. This honesty in acknowledging failures and difficulties can enhance transparency, foster deeper connections among scientists, and provide a fuller picture of the scientific process to the public. However, she also highlighted that such transparency might be discouraged due to potential concerns about funding and reputational impact.
The Impact on Scientists
Acknowledging failures and difficulties is not just about honesty in the scientific process; it also carries profound implications for scientists’ mental health. The pressure to produce perfect, reproducible results can create a taxing and lonely space for scientists. This often leads to feelings of self-doubt and imposter syndrome when experiments fail or results do not align with expectations.
Sarah’s goal, through her podcast, is to normalize these experiences and offer scientists a platform to share their vulnerabilities. By doing so, she hopes to bridge the gap between scientists and non-scientists, fostering understanding and reducing the stigma around failure in science.
Connecting Science with Life
“The Vulnerable Scientist” is not solely about the hardships of science. It is about connecting with the people behind the research, learning about their lives outside of the lab, and how they balance work with their personal lives. Sarah’s conversational style fosters a sense of intimacy and understanding, allowing the audience to see a more human side of science. It provides a platform for scientists to discuss various aspects of their lives, such as their hobbies, family life, and personal experiences, alongside their scientific work.
Representation and Inspiration
Beyond fostering understanding and connection, Sarah’s work also plays a vital role in representation. She features scientists from all walks of life, providing diverse perspectives and inspiring a broad audience. Her work sends a message to the younger generation and aspiring scientists that science is an accessible and diverse field. By showcasing her own experiences as a young Kenyan woman from a humble background, Sarah reinforces the notion that anyone, regardless of their background, can succeed in science.
Sarah’s candid approach to science communication through “The Vulnerable Scientist” podcast has helped shed light on the often-underrepresented human aspect of science. It offers a platform for scientists to discuss the highs and lows of their scientific journey while connecting on a personal level with their audience. For those interested in exploring the human side of science, “The Vulnerable Scientist” is available on all major podcast platforms and YouTube. Sarah and her podcast can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Instagram at @TVScientistPod.
Embracing vulnerability in science not only helps to humanize the field, but also opens up meaningful dialogues about the realities of the scientific process. As Sarah Nyanchera Nyakeri is showing us, it’s okay for scientists to be vulnerable, and there is immense strength and courage in doing so.