A theoretical chemist and a biochemist walk into a bar. They both speak the same language, yet it’s difficult for them to have a conversation about each other’s research. They’re both intelligent, educated scientists who have at least a basic understanding of the other’s field, so what’s the problem?
The first post from the ScIU blog asked the question: what is science really? The answer: it’s broad and complicated, but science can roughly be separated into “basic” and “applied” sciences, and both encompass many disciplines, such as chemistry, astronomy, and psychology.
But even these disciplines themselves are quite broad. For example, there are numerous subdivisions under the field of “chemistry”. While some chemists specialize in creating novel molecules (synthetic chemists), others pursue challenges in biologically relevant chemistry (biochemists), and still others use computational models to study the fundamental forces that explain chemical interactions (theoretical chemists). There are many other sub-disciplines (which are disciplines in their own right) under the “chemistry” umbrella as well, each with their own particular ensemble of jargon.
Each of these disciplines brings a unique perspective to the broader scientific community, but it is sometimes challenging for one researcher to discuss the impact of their work with someone from a different discipline. Hence, the theoretical chemist and biochemist may have communication difficulties unless they carefully rephrase their language and avoid discipline-specific jargon. Working to make their research accessible to a broader audience is one way in which communication between colleagues in different fields can also be improved.