When I’m not talking about germs and how to love them, I like to discuss the process of science communication, or scicomm. To be honest, as of late, most of my invited lectures at conferences and in courses tend to focus on how best to talk science in the real world. It’s quite rewarding as I enjoy helping others share their academic knowledge to a wider audience.

One of the best tricks of scicomm is to avoid what is known as the Shiny Object Syndrome. As you might expect, the term refers to an object, person, or event that grabs a person’s attention and hinders the accomplishment of any given task or objective.

I’ve been trying to find a good example of the syndrome for some time but never really have found the perfect model. Usually, I have had to come up with something stemming from the internet or hit TV show. Yet I think I finally may have found exactly what I needed.

It happened on Friday night at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies during the Parade of Nations.

canada-parade-of-nations-rio-2016-opening-ceremonyCanada in The Parade of Nations

Everything was going according to plan, meaning, it was long and for the most part uneventful. There were some good fashion moments, such as the uniforms from Madagascar and Norway. Some of the athletes were obviously looking to grab some time in the spotlight. Yet, as usual, the Parade seemed to drag on and people’s attentions began to wane.

And then something happened that changed everything…


The Shiny Object Syndrome Personified

Tonga was introduced and the oiled up flag bearer appeared in the spotlight.

The crowd went wild. The internet came close to breaking. Everyone was transfixed on that one oil-covered flag bearer. He was the quintessential shiny object and the world became transfixed in the syndrome. You can read more about it here: The Olympics’ oiliest man shines in opening ceremony

Although it took some time, the man behind the oil was identified as Pita Taufatofua. Within hours, everything about him was known. You can learn more here:

While Taufatofua’s appearance did help to make the Parade more interesting, he risked taking away attention to one of the hallmark moments of the Games. Standing a few hundred feet behind him was another team carrying an incredible importance in terms of our global society.

2016 Rio Olympics - Opening ceremonyThe Refugee Olympic Team

Thankfully, like many Shiny Objects, the Syndrome was short-lived. When the refugees appeared in the stadium, they received the standing ovation they deserved. That moment, a first at the Olympics, was absorbed by all and highlighted one of the most important messages and one of the objectives behind the Games themselves.



“The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious
development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society
concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

Enjoy The Games!

PS Have you ever suffered from the Shiny Object Syndrome? If so, let me know…