By: Ximena Leon
To be a successful scientist you have to be a successful science communicator. Too often, scientists are so passionate about their work that they can forget about the importance of effective communication. Effective communication is critical for the audience to understand the message, reflect on the purpose, and take action.
The audience plays an important role because with every presentation, there is a purpose to your communication. That could be something as simple as sharing your novel findings, or something as complex as trying to get politicians to accept your proposal for sending a new rocket to space. Every scientist must be able to effectively bridge the gap between science and the audience in order to express their purpose.
What is that “gap”?
The gap can be a plethora of things. It can be misconceptions, minimal interest, age difference, range of knowledge, and more. Without communication, there is no way to convey novel ideas or important information effectively. You must ask yourself questions about your audience. Are they experts in your field? Are they students merely entering the world of scientific research? Is your audience going to be reading your article, or are they listening to your dissertation? Many scientists forget that their excitement and extensive knowledge of a topic may not be a shared commonality with the audience. Finding your purpose, eliminating jargon, engaging the audience, and debunking misconceptions can help communicate your purpose. Every aspect must be considered to determine the most effective way to communicate your purpose.
As a researcher, I have had a fair share of experiences that have opened my eyes to the importance of effective communication. Last year, I did a poster presentation at a conference held at my university, and I was prepared to just talk to college students, professors, and scientists. What I did not expect was that I was going to have a 7-year-old approach my poster and ask me questions about it. Her eyes lit up as she expressed her interest of being a scientist. My original purpose with the science faculty was to express the importance of my findings and how it helps us understand kidney disorders. With her though, that purpose changed. I no longer wanted to communicate the same thing in as much detail, instead I wanted to answer her questions in hopes of keeping her dreams alive. Though this doesn’t happen often, and you probably won’t encounter a situation as drastic as mine, it is important to understand how to communicate one topic to a variety of audiences and be able to modify the way you communicate in a quick manner.
Making a lasting effect on scientific research and the science community begins and ends with successful communication.
Find your purpose. Understand your audience. Bridge the gap.