Good Science Communication: Benefits for the Audience and the Scientist
In this age of alternative facts, we can all agree that communicating science clearly and correctly is important. But when we say science communication, what do we mean? Communication from one scientist to another, or communication from scientists to non-scientific audiences? While they might seem very different, the goal in both forms is the same- to make your audience understand the results of your work, why you did it, and why it’s important.
Communication of your work to other scientists is a necessary skill in a scientific career, and most training programs spend at least some time teaching skills for scientific writing and presentations. But why should scientists care about communication to non-scientific audiences? Well, first of all, being able to explain the basics of your work to your grandmother or kid cousin probably means you can explain it pretty well to a grant committee. And being forced to explain the key concepts of your science to a non-scientist can actually help you understand your work better!
Science writer Russ Hodge of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine calls this ‘seeing ghosts’ in your research story. These ‘ghosts’ are assumptions that you and other scientists in your field hold, unstated and unquestioned when you communicate to other scientists. When you have to explain your work to a non-scientist, you build a story from the most basic concepts- forcing you to recognize those assumptions and ‘see the ghosts’. The end result is a deeper understanding of your work, benefiting the scientist as well as the audience!
So where do you find opportunities for science communication to non-scientific audiences? It can be quite an undertaking on your own, but fortunately FIMM has an active Science Communication Club, known as The Science Basement. We are a group of students who organize events centered around science communication, create content about science (both written and as audio/video content), and provide feedback for each other.
We also have a talk series this spring, inviting scientists to speak about their work to non-scientific audiences. An Afternoon in the Science Basement is held at the Arkadia International Bookshop in Töölö, with our next talk this Saturday, April 22nd at 16.00. Chiara Facciotto, doctoral candidate in the Hautaniemi lab and part of the Genome-Scale Biology Research Program at the University of Helsinki, will speak about ‘Nature vs Nurture- How Epigenetics Shapes Who We Are’.
If you’re interested in getting involved in science communication, check out our website, find us on Facebook, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope we see you this Saturday!
Picture credits: Cristian Capasso of Newpix Photography