My first consciously conducted science experiment was to gauge my parents' reaction to my playing in the mud. They sighed and brushed me off when I played in the dirt but encouraged me with toys and special clothing to play in the water, so I wondered 'How will they react when I combine dirt and water and play in that?'
That kind of self-directed learning is encouraged by certain educational institutions. But whether encouraged by formal schooling, we all start out—in some sense—as self-directed learners. Many of us get muddy in the process. That commonality of childhood experience can limit us as adults, though, by making it too easy to think of educating ourselves at more challenging subjects—such as science communication—as beyond the scope of self-education. Instead, as we grow up, we are increasingly prompted by many social systems to rely on formal experts. In some cases, that's useful because adult mistakes can be far more costly than muddy clothes.
So when a group of self-directed graduate students invited me to serve as an expert reviewer at ComSciCon-Triangle 2019, a workshop about communicating science for graduate students put on by graduate students, I went with the enthusiasm of a muddy imp who had just learned how to make his parents scream.