(Apologies to my general non-scientist readers in advance for a very specific science mini-post. And this post was written about an hour after a terribly boring NMR talk, so might be biased)
Structural biology is a major, interdisciplinary branch of biology that worries about what biological macromolecules (read: proteins, DNA and RNA) look like (or at a broader scale, what organelles look like).
Anyway, when it comes to proteins and nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), the two major methods used to study them are X-ray crystallography and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, have revolutionized biology (starting from the structure of the DNA double helix, and the structure of hemoglobin), and there are plenty of debates on those.
But for the general biologist, those differences are meaningless. Show them a structure, and molecular insights into protein function, and they're quite happy. The details of the experiments, and all the difficulties of solving the structure are incidental, and not particularly interesting. And I think this is where the X-ray crystallographers have really understood what it's all about.
In general (and there certainly are exceptions), when speaking to a broad audience (like say a biochemistry department somewhere), most X-ray crystallographers skip through the actual experimental nitty-gritty, like the particular problems in obtaining phases, or the details of the Ramachandran plot, and go right to the structure itself, and the implications that follow it. So, at the end of the talk, the audience (which would perhaps have a small percentage of crystallographers, and a majority of diverse biologists) will go back happy, feeling like something has been learnt.
The NMR folks though don't seem to have really received this message. In all their talks, they cannot resist going into details about the NOE spectra, or unique angle restraints, or exchange of somethingortheother. More often than not, at least I don't leave the seminar having appreciated the bigger picture.
Getting your message across to a broader audience is a big aspect of science. Could this be just one reason why there are a lot more X-ray crystallographers out there than NMR spectroscopists? And does anyone else feel this is true?