Speaking to… Eric R Olson

“I love that it pushes me to use both the creative and analytic parts of my brain.”

This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Eric R Olson


Eric R Olson

Where are you based?

New York City

Who do you work for?

I am the sole video editor & producer for Scientific American magazine. Previous to that I split my time as a multimedia editor for both Nature & Scientific American.

What type of science communication do you do?

Science videos, both editorial and educational. To a lesser degree: writing, podcasts and audio slideshows.

Who is your main audience?

The science-interested general public.

How did you get into it?

I started off at very young age with an interest in making short films (usually recruiting my younger siblings to star in them). At university, my interests gravitated toward science and, in particular, molecular biology and genetics. After graduating and working in a human genetics lab as a technician for six years, I knew I either needed to go back to school for a PhD or do something else entirely. So I decided to try to combine my interests in filmmaking and science. To  some degree, I think I’ve been successful.

Why do you do it?

I really enjoy the process of making difficult information easier to understand, the creative process of filmmaking and learning new things about the natural world. What could be better?

Why do you think science communication is important?

As a society, I don’t think we can make good decisions about our collective future unless we stay informed. Science is the best tool we have for getting at the truth of what’s happening around us and therefore it’s crucial that we help people to understand both the process of science and the insights it produces.

What do you love about science communication?

I love that it pushes me to use both the creative and analytic parts of my brain.

What has been your favourite project?

A video I produced on the neuroscience of magic n 2010. We flew out a magician from Las Vegas whose expertise is pick-pocketing and recruited fellow employees to be his “victims”. After each pick-pocketing, we had two neuroscientists who specialize in illusions explain how the magician had fooled the subject.

Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?

I do, but I can’t really talk about them before publication.

Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?

Learning to communicate science is very much a hands-on, iterative process. In other words, you only get better by doing it over and over again and learning from your mistakes. In addition, these days anyone can start a blog or YouTube channel and become their own publisher overnight. So while I think there is value in a formal science communication program, there’s no barrier to going it alone. You can really start communicating science this very moment. And for some people that is going to be an easier, more direct, and much less costly alternative to additional schooling.

You can follow Eric on Twitter at @ericrolson or see what he’s up to on his website at ericrolson.com