On 22nd April 2017, scientists will march through the streets of cities across the world. This will be a unique opportunity for our community to share their research to the public and outline how scientific research affects people. But how do you condense years of research into a compelling, accessible story? EuroScientist has the following tips:
Download below the 5 tips in PDF version
THE BIG PICTURE – How does your work relate to people’s lives?
Your work may not be of immediate consequence to people’s lives. Most research is highly specialised. Before delving into the details, take a step back and set the scene. Give some context to your work, and help people understand its relevance to them.
- How does your work speak to ideas that a lay person might be familiar with?
MAKE PROGRESS – How does your work compare to what we previously knew?
Most scientific work is incremental, or builds on the back of existing knowledge. To communicate the sense of progress in your work, you can give a sense of chronology. Answer the following questions:
- How does your work compare to that of your predecessors?
- Where does your work fit in the development of your field?
WEIGHT UP THE IMPLICATIONS – What does your work mean for the wider public?
Your work may in some instances affect people directly. Health research is one example of this. More theory-based work may have less obvious implications for them. With creativity and clear examples, you can explain the difference your work makes to people’s lives. Answer the following question:
- Why should people care about the work you do?
GET VISUAL – Use vivid language, pictures, comparisons and metaphors
Draw parallels between the object of your research and everyday objects to help people understand related concepts. Nobel Committee Member Thor Hans Hansson famously explained topology using a cinnamon bun, a bagel and a pretzel. Such comparisons would be over-simplistic at a scholarly conference, but they are essential to helping lay people understand your work.
- Why not use one of the tricks professional science journalists use?
WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE – Pick simple words and cut out the jargon
Most scientists are used to discussing research with their peers, but this can lead to an overload of jargon. When explaining complex work to non-specialists, you need to choose your language for clarity. Consider:
- How would you explain your work to a child? Chances are adults will enjoy the explanation too.
Photo credit: Maxime Bhm via Unsplash.