As scientists, we are more invested in exploring our research to gain a deeper understanding of the field. You are a specialist and tend to use complex terms to explain your findings to your neighboring researchers. Nevertheless, it is quite important to reach this valuable knowledge to the general public. Translating complicated theories into terms and ideas the public can understand is not easy.
Recently, scientists, university and research institutions, government institutions, and others are trying to find ways to make our findings more accessible to the people. In our master’s programme in biomedicine, we have communication courses to assist us in communicating our research to scientists, as well as the general public. We just finished Applied in Communication Biomedicine (ACB) 3 (2.5 ECTS) and ACB 4 (2.5 ECTS).
The former focused on the importance of communicating research with the public through written text and oral, while the latter aimed at writing grant applications. Each course had an assignment, and we were given feedback from the student (peer-review) and the course leader on our performance. Although the schedule and the given instructions for these courses were confusing, I still personally think that I learned quite a lot, especially in ACB3.
Hence, I will list below the top things to consider when communicating science to the public:
1. Tell a compelling story…
Try to engage the reader or the general public by starting off with an excellent introduction. For example, how scientists are trying to find a cure for a disease..etc.
2. Key illustrations
When presenting to people from different fields, try to use minimal text and more images and data visualizations. Also, it is more eye-catching for the audience to see an animated figure than reading several bullet points.
3. Use analogies and metaphors
At the beginning of an article, it is important to explain the definition of scientific terms such as microRNAs, neurons, different hormones..etc. Your research topic can be explained in a simpler and straightforward way by using analogies and metaphors. For example, to make the audience better understand the function of microRNAs, I mentioned that microRNAs behave as a dimmer switch in a cell.
This is a classic tip for anyone starting something new, but when it comes to talking about research to the public you should be careful with using certain words. You are the expert, and you are expected to know what is known and unclear in a field. Hence, you should not speculate or say that you hope for the best in popular science articles or presentations.
5. Nail the conclusion
The final concluding paragraph of a popular science article or slide of the presentation should briefly summarize all your findings and future work. Try to make it catchy, and use thought-provoking sentences. You want the audience to remember your take-home message.
When researchers share their exciting findings with the public in accessible ways, that is when the magic appears. We can build bridges between science and society, attract the general public, and initiate a critical dialogue about the innovative solutions science provides.
LinkedIn: Sara Abu Ajamieh