This post was co-authored with Eric Berger, science writer at The Houston Chronicle.
It’s been nearly two decades since Carl Sagan, the great science communicator, died.
Since that time public trust in science has eroded, and no one has emerged as Sagan’s clear successor. At the same time popular culture is littered with faux science ideas, from anti-vaccination fervor to documentaries on mermaids and mega-sharks.
What the world needs, then, is a great communicator of science who can connect with large audiences, liberal, moderate and conservative, to help explain what science is, and the wonders it reveals about nature and the nature of the universe.
So do we have one? We have compiled a list of science communicators who have both a large reach and shown a desire to engage with the public on these issues. Now we’d like to gather public input on who is both most effective, and most widely known.
To that end, we’d like you to take our poll, shown below.
Do you hate the list above?
We caught some grief on Twitter Saturday when the poll was first published. Too few females. Too many glaring omissions. The list was too tilted toward North America. The list was too arbitrary. And so on.
What I can say is that the poll is intended to stimulate discussion and thought about the topic. It was not intended to be a rigorous academic exercise. With that being said, I would stand by the science communicators we have chosen for our poll as the best and most widely known science communicators. There are a lot of wonderful science bloggers and authors who have devoted audiences, but if their reach is, say, 10,000 people then they are hardly making a deep impression on the public consciousness.
Which at the end of the day is what the next Carl Sagan should do.
A version of this post appeared at SciGuy, a blog at The Houston Chronicle.