Houston, We Have a Narrative: Why Science Needs Story by Randy OlsonAsk a scientist about Hollywood, and you’ll probably get eye rolls. But ask someone in Hollywood about science, and they’ll see dollar signs: moviemakers know that science can be the source of great stories, with all the drama and action that blockbusters require.
That’s a huge mistake, says Randy Olson: Hollywood has a lot to teach scientists about how to tell a story—and, ultimately, how to do science better. With Houston, We Have a Narrative, he lays out a stunningly simple method for turning the dull into the dramatic. Drawing on his unique background, which saw him leave his job as a working scientist to launch a career as a filmmaker, Olson first diagnoses the problem: When scientists tell us about their work, they pile one moment and one detail atop another moment and another detail—a stultifying procession of “and, and, and.” What we need instead is an understanding of the basic elements of story, the narrative structures that our brains are all but hardwired to look for—which Olson boils down to “And, But, Therefore,” or ABT. At a stroke, the ABT approach introduces momentum (“And”), conflict (“But”), and resolution (“Therefore”)—the fundamental building blocks of story. As Olson has shown by leading countless workshops worldwide, when scientists’ eyes are opened to ABT, the effect is staggering: suddenly, they’re not just talking about their work—they’re telling stories about it. And audiences are captivated.
Built on principles that are applicable to fields far beyond science, Houston, We Have a Narrative has the power to transform the way science is understood and appreciated, and ultimately how it’s done.
The ABT Rewrite
'Houston, We Have A Narrative: Why Science Needs Story' -- Just Not This Story
Comedians have the ability to be the most important communicators in our society. Because people actually WANT to hear them talk unlike politicians, environmental activists, and scientists among others. Why is this? Nobody knows narrative structure better. Who would you rather listen to for an hour — the late Stephen Hawking or Jerry Seinfeld?
Biological Sciences: Natural History. Reference and Bibliography. Rhetoric and Communication. You may purchase this title at these fine bookstores. Outside the USA, see our international sales information. University of Chicago Press: E. About Contact News Giving to the Press.
This really is an excellent self-help book for scientists. Our group of science facilitators, integrators and communicators at the Integration and Application Network have developed a suite of visualization tools to help scientists communicate more effectively, and what Randy provides is a template for developing the storyline for these visual elements. Credit: Image from timeshighereducation. Randy has also made this book very readable, using humor, real life examples and references popular culture as frequently as referencing scientific literature. He advocates that scientists combine the intuitive with the rational, which corresponds to my call to combine STUDY Scientific rigor, Total commitment, Understanding complexity, Developing methodology, Yearning for truth with SOLVE Shared vision, Organized and balanced approach, Leadership, Varied communication, Effective actions , using the analogy of connecting the right and left hemispheres of the brain with the corpus callosum nerves.
ABT: The DNA of Story
Randy Olson wants you. And by you, I mean science educators and communicators. He wants to gift you with abilities to better relate your research to a larger audience, in order to influence the wider public. Commendable goal. This can be of the planet shaking, climate change kind, or of the more intimate, teenage-brains-are-just-so-odd kind. Look no further than the ongoing controversy over vaccinations, the linking and counter-linking Cold War on comment threads.
Randy's Books. No one has ever gone the full distance in both academic science and cinema the way that Randy Olson has. After achieving tenure as a marine biologist, he then at age 38 retrained himself as a filmmaker by going the full distance of the U. Film Production M. These two sets of career pathways give him a unique perspective on the importance of visual communication, spontaneity and storytelling to the mass communication of science.