A few tips for talking about science

On June 14, the Academy will host a #MedSciLife Twitter chat on how to effectively write about science for non-specialist audiences, with tips, hints and first-hand accounts from scientists that have made successful forays into science communication. 

Communicating your science generally starts with the question, "Why should I bother?"

This is often followed by the realisation that explaining your work to someone other than a close collaborator or supervisor is not as simple as you might have thought.

There are plenty of answers to the question, and way too many to be listed here; they are best left for the Twitter chat. Let me reassure though, unless you are breaking confidentiality rules or giving away industrial secrets, no-one is going to give you a hard-time for being willing to communicate your work to others.

“Audiences” is the next key word. Who are the people you want (or need) to explain your research to?

An abstract or a conference talk is directed to your closest research peers, already in the know of your particular field of research. A lay abstract will address a slightly wider, yet still scientifically interested group, while a magazine article or a minute on the radio will reach a much wider public but with little knowledge or engagement with your field.

When moving to wider audiences, language must expand in response. Concepts that could be explained to a colleagues with four words no longer work and one needs to become more creative with language. Clarity and simplicity are essential now, acronyms better forgotten, but always respect your audience and never dumb things down unnecessarily.

Communicating about your work is very rewarding and should not be seen with fear. Practice talking about science with your friends in the pub, enter a writing competition, explain it to your children – and try to enjoy it!

And if this is not enough, join our #MedSciLife Twitter chat on Tuesday 12.30 for all those extra questions...

- Dr Giorgio De Faveri, MCIPR

 

Read our updated version of this article, 'Top tips for communicating science effectively', for more detailed guidance here

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