– Camille D. Ryan Ph.D.-
Picture it. 1996. I was working as an admin at a research center in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. In addition to being the coffee-maker extraordinaire, I autoclaved agar, washed Erlenmeyer flasks, and I ordered lab supplies.
The best thing of all is that I got to work with some pretty terrific plant scientists! This is where my science love story begins. And you might be surprised to know that how that love affair started had very little to do with the science that was being done.
But first things first… Some twenty years later, as a social scientist, I can tell you the science behind why telling our science stories matter.
Stories have always been a really important part of our social fabric. This, of course, goes back hundreds of thousands of years when we humans used to share our stories on cave walls.
Did you know that humans are hard-wired to respond to stories and not facts? Why? Well, first off we like to think in pictures. And we are very risk-averse, pattern seekers.
And when we don’t’ have all the information, we like to fill in gaps with our own beliefs and maybe a few conspiracies. We are also highly influenced by the people that we are closest to.
Let me give you an example. In the mid 90s, I was single parent and I was really struggling to make ends meet. I came to a fork in the road. I could have gone and worked at a graphics arts firm but I took a job working with the scientists I mentioned earlier. And guess what? My social network expanded in new and very unexpected ways.
I not only worked with these people, but we played together too. Our children went to school and participated in sports together. We all swapped some pretty interesting life stories and, most importantly, we supported one another.
And through share life experiences, we became woven into the same social fabric.
Throughout all of this, my worldview expanded. And so did my trust in science. And this was because I trusted the scientists as people first.
Do you know what makes for a good story? Sure, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And then there’s action, suspense, and all that good stuff. But the most important thing about a good story – one that is told well – is that it releases chemicals in the listener’s brain. And these chemical reactions build trust between the storyteller and the listener.
Stories have a way of gaining new meaning over time. In the mid 90s, my feet were firmly planted in the middle of a story that I had no idea I was part of. That team of scientists that I served coffee to in Saskatoon was the same team that brought genetically engineered canola to the market. That was huge event in Canada’s agriculture history. And while I didn’t get the significance of the story I was living out then, I sure get it now!
That science story and other ones are knitted in with my own evolving life story. The love that I have for science has stuck with me. I mean, how couldn’t it? It’s as much a part of my own fabric as raising two kids on my own and providing for them ever was.
But I often wonder where I would be right now if I’d have taken that job in graphics arts instead. Would I have ever had this amazing love affair with science? One thing that I know for sure is that I wouldn’t be sharing my science love story with all of you.
My trust in science came through building relationships with scientists, many that are just like you. I leave you now with this. What if I hadn’t taken that job with those scientists so many years ago? If you met up with me today, what story would you tell me that would make me love the science as much as you do?
Cami Ryan is a self-defined nerd, a social media maven, and part-time myth-buster. She has worked in the area of agriculture for more than 20 years and, for most of that time, as a public sector researcher. Cami is wholly energized by “everything ag”. She is not a farmer (but comes from a farming family). She is not a scientist; at least not in the traditional sense. Cami is a social scientist. Cami joined the Monsanto Company in 2014 where, as Social Sciences Lead (the first role of its kind for the company and the industry), she is responsible for strengthening relationships with social, behavioral and political scientists. In this role, Cami leverages an expanding scientific network in North America and around the world to more closely examine and understand policy, regulations and consumer acceptance of agricultural innovations.
Cover Image from the video by Cami Ryan