Popular science is the process of "breaking the circle of knowledge". To make science popular is to lower the wall in a circle.


Tell popular science stories, buy popular science books, listen to lectures, visit natural museums... Mr. Geng attaches great importance to the science education of children, and whenever he has time, he takes children to contact science popularization and expand his knowledge; Xiao Tong is in the fourth grade of primary school this year, she likes to read popular science books, especially astronomy, a few weeks ago, the class held a knowledge competition, she helped the group win the championship with her usual rich accumulation; PhD student Liu Fei (pseudonym) focuses on materials research and has been a loyal lover of popular science books since he was a child, "It is popular science books that opened the first door for my career choice and development."

In 2022, Beijing Science and Technology Press Co., Ltd. will publish a total of 124 popular science books with more than 61,2022 copies; China Translation Publishing House has also launched a large number of popular science books on cutting-edge new knowledge, while paying attention to the history of science and the philosophy of science, and "The Circle of Ouroboros" was recently selected as the "<> Capital Popular Science Good Book".

As a window for readers to understand scientific knowledge, popular science plays a vital role in the cultivation of personal ability, the popularization of science and technology, and the improvement of the scientific quality of the whole people. In June 2021, the State Council issued the Outline of the National Action Plan for Scientific Literacy (6-2021); In August 2035, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Central Propaganda Department and the China Association for Science and Technology jointly issued the 2022th Five-Year Plan for the Popularization of Science and Technology; In September 8, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the "Opinions on Further Strengthening the Popularization of Science and Technology in the New Era", which constitutes the top-level design of the development pattern of science popularization in the new era.

According to the data of "open-book popular science", the growth of popular science is higher than the overall market level, and the proportion of local original works has also increased. But the problem still exists, from the perspective of reading needs, there are currently more products for children's educational needs and adults' own interests or fragmented needs, and there are fewer "high-end popular science" books for adult readers to explore their needs.

The glory and dream of popular science books, the ideals and reality of readers, authors and publishing houses, are walking at a crossroads.

Popular science is only for children?

Li Jianlong, a doctor of theoretical physics and popular science author, has been engaged in science communication since he was a doctoral student, and so far has not only translated popular science books such as "Hidden Reality" and "The Book of the Universe", but also cooperated with illustrators to launch many popular science books in the form of comics, such as "New Technology Driving - Cutting-edge Science Comics that Children Can Understand". In his view, the lack of "high-end popular science" books is determined by the market, "parents will buy popular science books for children, but fewer adults read popular science books".

"The difference in the characteristics of psychological development between children and adults leads to this phenomenon." Zhang Yan, supervisor of Beijing Science and Technology Press Co., Ltd., analyzed that children are always curious about the world that adults are accustomed to and take for granted, and hope to understand the world through various channels; Parents also hope to cultivate children's scientific thinking through books to help children better explore the world, "children's curiosity about the world, for publishers, is a rich topic pool".

Shi Jun, a popular science writer and doctor of botany from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has a very simple motivation for creating popular science, but writing papers is too dull, and he wants to seek some psychological support and recognition. Later, as the content increased, his mentality gradually changed, "more to share with everyone, so that more people are interested in scientific issues."

Shi Jun believes that the author does not need to preset the age of the reader when creating, "When I wrote books such as 'The History of Humans Shaped by Plants' and "Chinese Food: A History of Fruits", I expected the audience to be adults, but what surprised me was that many elementary school students were also reading them. A story that children can understand, not necessarily adults don't like to hear. The topic is right, the story is clear, and these two things are enough."

On the ship of popular science, in addition to popular science authors, the publishing house determines to a certain extent how far it can push the ship. Guo Yujia, head of Lingxi Studio of China Translation Publishing House, said that the current readers' acceptance of popular science books has increased, not only popular science works closely related to life, but also serious scientific works such as the history of science are becoming more and more marketable. In addition, there are more and more works that observe social life through scientific phenomena.

In response to market changes, publishing houses are constantly adjusting their strategies to meet the diverse needs of readers. Zhang Yan said, "The popular science books launched on the market now emphasize the perspective of readers, focus on the subdivision of readers' ages, show a trend of serialization and systematization, and attach equal importance to artistry and knowledge." At the same time, popular science forms are diverse, not only popular science literature picture books, popular science comics, but also popular science games, three-dimensional popular science..."

As for the "high-end popular science" books for adults, Zhang Yan said frankly that the audience of such books is relatively limited, and the publication is more difficult and the cycle is longer, and the high standard has created a "small" quantity: "If the popular science books are compared to a pyramid, children's popular science books are used as the bottom layer, and adult high-end popular science is used as the upper layer, which itself is in line with the needs of the book market."

Is "making science pop" "making science visible"?

Popular science is closely related to science, but when communicating to the public, creators need to transform the abstract and complex content of science into expressions that everyone can understand. Therefore, some people think that "making science popular" means "making science simple".

Li Jianlong agrees with this view: "Popular science is to talk about simple things. If you introduce a car to someone who has never seen a car, he does not need to know what the torque of the car is, nor does he need to know the details of the chip type of the circuit, as long as he knows what the car is for. ”

"It's good to be easy to understand, but many of today's scientific problems can't be explained in just a few words." Shi Jun believes that in most cases, relying on popular science to build a complete knowledge system may be a false proposition. Popular science can transmit some knowledge, but if you want to truly achieve refined scientific training, you also need to rely on science education, "people who do popular science are advertising people, we are people who shake the flag."

Science writer Sun Yafei worked in a chemical factory in his early years, and found that many workers handling chemical products did not know enough about chemical knowledge, so he began to do science popularization for workers in the factory. In 2011, when the Taiwan plasticizer incident broke out, Sun Yafei published his knowledge in newspapers and the Internet, and officially began the road of science popularization. "Elements and Human Civilization" is the first popular science book created and published by Sun Yafei. This book focuses on five important chemical elements gold, copper, silicon, carbon and titanium, allowing readers to understand the impact of elements on human civilization in the story.

"We can't make it less scientific in order to cater to the epidemic." Sun Yafei said, "Many people think that if the knowledge is not explained simply, the reader may not understand, but in fact this is not the case. Many audiences do not accept popular science because science popularization workers are not interesting in controlling content. ”

In Zhang Yan's view, popular science is the process of "breaking the circle of knowledge". "To make science popular, it is necessary to lower the wall enclosed in a circle, refine the age of readers, and make popular science books series and systematize, from low walls to high walls, from basic to advanced; Or change the structure and appearance of the wall, innovate the form of books, and guide outsiders to climb over the wall; Or, make the world in the circle more eye-catching, let more scientific researchers participate in book creation, and achieve popular transformation of popular science knowledge through people with a deep understanding of knowledge, so that outsiders can see the richness and variety of the circle. ”

Can't live by writing popular science? Where young practitioners are going

Although the popular science industry is gradually getting better and the market is gradually expanding, the survival of popular science creators is still not optimistic. According to the data of "open-book popular science", popular science has not been a best-selling category for public reading, and the publishing scale does not account for a high proportion of the overall market, and publishing units are more cautious in the investment of new popular science books.

"Creators basically can't live by writing popular science books alone." Shi Jun said frankly that due to the small income from popular science creation, most practitioners can only take it as an interest and create it when they have spare time to do their own work. "The product characteristics of popular science books determine that its total sales and selling price cannot be very high, but at the same time, the difficulty of popular science creation is very large, and the input-output ratio is low."

Many freelance science workers are not affiliated with universities, research institutes, museums and other institutions. Shi Jun believes that although the current professional title review of science communication has been opened to such people, there is still a lot of work to be done to protect their rights and interests.

Popular science is also facing the onslaught of pseudoscience. Li Jianlong once saw someone on the Internet break the news: the noodles produced in a certain factory are set on fire, which is problematic and cannot be eaten. He was helpless: "Food is organic matter, organic matter can be burned, do you still want to eat noodles that cannot be burned?" "As science popularizers, we need to repeatedly talk about what has been said in the compulsory education stage, so it is difficult to popularize more advanced content to the public." Li Jianlong said that popular science and education cannot be fought separately, and it is necessary to unite to improve citizens' science popularization literacy.

In the face of many difficulties, where should science popularization practitioners go? "It is not enough to rely on administrative means to promote science popularization." Li Jianlong believes that popular science communication also needs to rely on market forces and the joint efforts of the whole society to "make the public interested in science and make them realize that it is necessary to learn science."

Guo Yujia said: "We will focus on the growth of some young popular science writers, actively discuss topics with them, and provide publishing support and cross-border discussion opportunities for their works. ”

Zhang Yan said that at present, producers with a lot of knowledge become disseminators of knowledge, and young researchers who love popular science "transform" into popular science bloggers and spread scientific knowledge on the Internet in a fun way, "Many of them have the potential to create popular science books, which is worth exploring."

Li Danping, trainee reporter of China Youth Daily and China Youth Network Reporter Jiang Xiaobin Source: China Youth Daily