sarahkeenihan

Day 41. Communication

In September 2012 on September 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm

“How can scientists communicate to the public if they can’t even explain their work to each other?”

This great question comes from a blog I’ve just discovered: The Skeptics Book of Pooh-Pooh.

The author expresses her dismay at the apparent inability of scientists at a multidisciplinary conference to move outside of their specific area of expertise, and focus on one of the fundamentals of communication:

–> What is your audience, and how can you refine your content to suit its needs? 

This applies to science just as it does to any other sphere.

As a postgraduate student I was forced to think about the needs of at least two difference audiences every time I presented my work. As I explain in longer form here,

Being immunologists in an obstetric and gynaecology department was a blessing in disguise. Whenever we presented our work to members of our own department, we had to clearly explain all the immunology background so they could follow the story. Likewise, whilst describing our projects at immunology conferences we needed to provide clear and simple information on the reproductive system, assuming that most of the audience would have no background in this area. Good communication was critical.

I think this history and framework strongly shaped my love of communicating science.

The Australian Health and Medical Research Congress comes to Adelaide 25-28 November 2012, and includes over 60 research societies. I am hoping to attend; it will be interesting to see just how many of the cross-disciplinary presentations keep the needs of their mixed background audiences in mind.

[photo thanks to Warren Pearce on flickr]

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  1. Reblogged this on oceanicexplorer and commented:
    This looks at a broader interest area of mine: communicating science clearly to the public and/or fellow scientists. In previous jobs, I’ve seen that done very well or very poorly, depending on the academic involved. It’s not a criticism of particular academics though; it’s more about the leadership they are given by department heads or the comms office, giving the tools and training to tell their science stories.

  2. That’s so true, it often does boil down to having encouragement/sense of freedom to operate from a senior person. Those that really want to do often have innate communication skills I think, or at least they can be trained very easily.

    Thanks for the reblog and the comment! Cheers.

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