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The Science of Communication: what’s in it for researchers

Opinion | Researchers
The Science of Communication: what’s in it for researchers

Science communication is part of the research process. Elodie Chabrol explains why.

I am currently working as the International Director of Pint of Science, a science communication festival of events spanned across 29 countries, but up until 3 years  ago I was a researcher too. I worked for 12 years on Epilepsy, first in Paris where I completed my PhD research and then in London where I went on to pursue a postdoc and worked on new therapies for some forms of epilepsy. I was fascinated by the brain and all its yet to be unravelled secrets and I still am!

During those years, I often found myself feeling overwhelmed by all the experiments, student training, article writing and grant proposals. I wasn’t thinking about science communication at all. That was until 2013, when I first got involved in pint of Science and started organizing events and helping researchers to communicate their findings to the wider public. It was then when I realized that science communication is a vital part of the research process. I firmly believe that science communication can help you to be a better researcher and here are three reasons why:

Killing two birds with one stone

By practicing how to share your findings with the public in a simple, jargon-free way, you pick up new presentation tips and skills. This kind of training comes in handy for interviews and funding auditions where you have to impress people that are not necessarily experts in your domain. When you become more accustomed to addressing a lay audience, you develop your unique style showing why your results and your ideas carry societal value in an accessible, more open way. Overtime, you become your own personal marketer. 

Gaining a new perspective

The most interesting feedback I often receive from Pint of Science speakers is that somehow this experience changes the way they view their project. They get a chance to look at their research with fresh eyes. Often, at this type of events people are asking all sorts of ‘unexpected’ questions. Those questions can be a source of inspiration for scientists, an “oh, I hadn’t thought of that” kind of moment which enables them to think outside the box and drives them to see their project from a different angle. When you’ve worked on a specific theory or subject for years, you could definitely use an ‘outside of the box’ perspective. “I saw the big picture again”, one of the speakers told me last year. 

Sharing is caring

You may have brilliant ideas but if you can’t get them across, then what’s the point? Research is a big commitment. You spend years on a project, sometimes you spend more time in the lab than with your family. Have you ever tried to explain your big breakthrough to your friends or at a family dinner only to be disappointed by the puzzled looks you got staring back at you? 

I founded Pint of Science France because I wanted to share my passion for science. I wanted to do my part in breaking down the stereotypes that have scientists as distant, trapped in their science bubble and too preoccupied with their experiments – an image that can sometimes lead to distrust and suspicion about our work especially about touchy subjects, for instance, GMO or vaccines. I wanted to bring scientists and non-scientists together to create a platform that will enable a greater understanding of science and the research world. 

It’s never an easy time for research. We always need more funding and politics to be on our side, but I think the way to go about is by getting the public to be more involved. The work is not over after the publication of your paper in a scientific journal. Think about it like making a movie; the work is not done at the premiere. If you want to make it to the top Box Office, you have to promote it to make sure you will secure the budget for the sequence. It’s the same with research. If you publish one paper it’s not the end of the journey, it’s only the beginning. You need to get more grants, public or private funders on your side and, for that, you need to draw attention to your work and create a community around your research by engaging the public. 

It can be something as simple as writing a blog post, participating in a science communication podcast or just tweet about your latest finding. And of course, you can always come and talk to an enthusiastic public in one of our Pint of Science events! We’re in so many countries, you can’t miss us. 

This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Hindawi. The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.

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