Popularizing science: how to


Cécile Michaut is doctor in chemistry and scientific journalist since 1998. She teaches popularizing science in universities and universities. She founded a company, Science et Partage, which works in this quite particular field of the formation to popularization.


Her book, Vulgarisation scientifique, mode d’emploi, published by EDP Sciences (only in french I fear), is a concentrate of intelligence and passion for the transmission. Cécile Michaut evokes in it the (good) reasons to popularize sciences, the good ways of doing it, the (bad) fears that it is necessary to learn how to tame. What is particularly invaluable, it is that she included in her book interviews of scientists, journalists, presenters, so the book becomes living and opened.
It addresses itself above all to the researchers who wish to share their research and their knowledge, but it did not leave me indifferent, because number of the points who are approached there coincide with my daily practice.
It is the reading of this book, inter alia, which pushed me to remake my site in the form that it currently has, with articles like this one, in which I share my readings, my discoveries, but also my way of considering my work.
More particularly, here is the magic sentence which illuminated my day of reading. It is from the physicist Etienne Klein, and I should write it on the wall opposite my office so much it contains, in a few words, the reasons for which I like my job (I hope my translation is good enough!):

If one wants to take part in a common world, each one must be able to explain what it does by taking account of knowledge of the other.

Etienne Klein, in Vulgarisation scientifique, mode d’emploi

The idea “to take part in a common world” is primordial. The scientists who offer to a share of their knowledge to us allow us to make our world vaster, and they give each other also the possibility of increasing theirs of our own knowledge, questionings, even worries. The common world which results from it is able still to grow with the next meeting.

I spoke about my job, some lines above, and I would like to establish the link between this book and my activity.
Thanks to an answer to a job offer, 8 years ago, I found myself surrounded by enthralling scientists, with the goal to carry out small films for the Natural history museum of Toulouse. It was, precisely, 22 films of a few seconds which were to illustrate 22 “nodes” in the tree of the life, i.e. 22 important modifications of the living beings having led to the development of new groups of living beings. I worked under the direction of Nathalie Grenet, a formidable museographe, and of Yves Lignereux, a zoologist of which I would have readily listened to the stories during hours.

This experience was my first meeting with sciences, as an animated film director. Since, the meetings followed one another, and I was pleased to broach very varied subjects and matters. I thus do not make popularizing science, but I regard myself as a kind of transformer by which the knowledge of the scientist passes and reaches the public.

I take time to discuss with the scientists with whom I work on their will of transmission, and I try to identify their needs, their fears, and to nourish me of their enthusiasm. The book of Cécile Michaut offered new keys to me to consider a richer relation between them and me.

Do you wish to react in this article, to share your experience? The comments are there for that!