Monday, February 11, 2013

Podcast: Chemistry Avengers: anti-chemophobia and chemistry outreach

At Science Online 2013, Dr. Rubidium was co-moderator with Carmen Drahl of the "Chemophobia and Chemistry in the Modern World" session. It was really, really impressive and so See Arr Oh and I decided to talk to her about chemophobia, among other things.

There was so much to talk about (Dr. Rubidium is a former forensic chemist, so we had a great time chatting about Annie Dookhan) that we've divided the podcast into 3 parts, with today's section being on chemophobia and science outreach.

Thanks to See Arr Oh for these timepoints, which have been lightly altered by me:

0:08 - Intro
1:29 - Y'know, we should probably define the Deficit Model
3:43 - Talking to the right people, at the right time on the right subject
6:32 - Diff'rent viewpoints: contextual understanding and #chemophobia
9:49 - CJ's falls in love with hazmat suits in National Geographic
11:25 - Are we listening enough? "In-reach" vs. Outreach
13:04 - The Carl Sagan / Neil de Grasse Tyson problem
14:05 - "And that's the name of the podcast!"
16:08 - The diversity of chemistry fields
18:08 - SAO blames Jurassic Park for being too 'cool'
20:30 - The Science Museum contradiction
23:16 - Quit viewing non-traditional careers as a consolation prize!
24:32 - Beating the Feynman drum
27:07 - Wanted: "Outreach Infrastructure"
28:15 - Time to put up the $$$
29:32 - 2 million bucks? Chicken feed for the ACS.
29:55 - Bonus outtake


  1. Chemjobber are you guys planning on posting these via itunes or stitcher? I would love an easy way to download the podcasts to listen to them on the go

    1. I think you can download them via, but let me see what I can do. This is obviously important, so I want to make it happen.

  2. All you really need is an RSS feed for the podcast only, which should be easy to do with feedburner or similar. Would be a great way to ensure people are automatically updated when new episodes are added. Look forward to it!

  3. In the middle of listening to this right now ... and I have one point of contention. Anti what Dr. R says about chemists getting the chemists right and not doing policy. I think that chemists MUST do policy and they MUST think about policy. We have to. It can't just be chemists who decide to do policy as a career. This needs to happen.

    One other thing that we really need in our field is better "citizen chemistry" projects. Its something that I've thought about and haven't quite hit on the right thing yet.

  4. CJ,
    Have you contacted anyone high in the food chain at ACS and ask them about what they've considered in terms of outreach? And their reaction to $2M worth of chicken feed? These conversations, including Dr. Bark's, tend to avoid asking direct questions of our society's leaders--and might benefit from some direct interaction.
    R. Sacamano

  5. @Anon11:13
    You raise a VERY excellent point. Many of us certainly do "talk" to ACS folks about this stuff. The problem is where our access up that chain stops. Several folks are also actively trying to figure out a real way to gain some influence (as a group) in order to have these ideas heard. If you have any ideas on what you would do (or how to gain that access) we would love to hear them.

  6. Start at the top. You and the others may want to reach out to Madeleine Jacobs and see if she would do a Q&A. I've been at public lectures she gives, and it is clear from her presentations that she is cognizant of the problems associated with a chemophobic society.

    Dr. Bark developed a blog-based relationship with ACS president-elect Tom Barton, perhaps he could leverate those connections within the context of a meaningful issue such as this.

    R. Sacamano

  7. "Quit viewing non-traditional careers as a consolation prize!"

    Couldn't have said it better myself.

  8. Physicists and Bioscientists need public dollars.
    Chemistry has been Commercialized. Thanks IG Farben.

  9. I really liked this discussion on Chemophobia. I've been thinking a lot of the same things for a long time and I'm glad to hear you guys mention them.

    1 - We sometimes get in the habit of patting ourselves on the back with chemophobia. By this I mean we know all the arguments against chemophobia and we just KNOW they are sound arguments so we just repeat them over and over again instead of actually clearing up the real misconception.

    2 - I loved the discussion on the Sagan/Tyson problem. I'd also add Bill Nye to your list. He's not an astrophysicist, but he is Pres of The Planetary Society, so I think he fits into the mold. I love doing outreach, and I think chemistry needs a Tyson/Sagan/Nye. Ya, black holes are awesome, but chemistry is something we use every day. If any field should have a "Sagan" it is chemistry.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20