Hawkeye Pierce pierces barriers between scientists and the rest of us

Posted on Jul 31, 2013 in Plain Language Blog Articles

Earlier this year, CBS Sunday Morning interviewed actor and professor Alan Alda

about his efforts to help science students learn to speak to people in language they can understand.
After he hosted “Scientific American Frontiers” on PBS, he heard from policy makers, including Congressmembers, who keeping saying that they can’t
understand the scientists who come to talk to them.
“Why would you give money to somebody whose work you don’t understand?” Alda asked.
And he illustrates the value of plain language from doctors.
“Boy, did it ever! I was on a mountaintop in Chile, interviewing astronomers for the science program,” he recalled. “And within a few minutes I was in the worst pain in my life ’cause I had a strangled intestine. And about a yard of it was dead. I could’ve died within a couple of hours.
“But there was this wonderful doctor that they brought me to who said, in the clearest possible way, ‘Something’s gone wrong with your intestine and we have to cut out the bad part and sew the two good ends together.’ I said, ‘That’s great. Do it,’ you know? So there are times when you least expect it where good communication can come in handy.”