Last night five researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed off their science communication skills in a Research Rumble at the Cambridge Public Library as part of Cambridge Science Festival.
We heard about topics ranging from traumatic brain injury suffered by women in abusive relationships, to genetic sequencing in newborn babies, to Alzheimer’s disease.
The judges, Julie Burros, Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston; Carey Goldberg, editor of WBUR’s CommonHealth blog; Christine Reich, PhD, Vice President of Exhibit Development and Conservation at the Boston Museum of Science; and Mark VanDerzee, co-founder of Company One, provided insightful feedback to our contestants. They offered suggestions for simplifying the science (i.e. avoid scientific jargon and abbreviations) and how to make the presentations feel more like narrative stories by adding in personal anecdotes and discussing the bigger picture.
The judges chose Mass General’s own Jonathan Hoggatt, PhD, as the winner, but the broader goal of the event was to share ideas about effective science communication.
The ability to communicate complicated scientific information clearly and effectively is challenging, but it’s an important skill that helps researchers reach a wider audience. Given the competitive research funding landscape, effective science communicators are also able to better articulate the significance and potential real-world impact of their work to potential funders.
So much has been written and said on the topic of science communication. To name a few:
- Check out this great TED Talk from Melissa Marshall where she shares tips for presenting complex scientific ideas to a general audience.
- This article from Forbes re-emphasizes the importance of using simple language to help everyday folks understand the importance of your science.
- Lastly, the Mass General Research Institute has launched several initiatives to help researchers hone their science communication skills.