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

Elodie Chabrol is an ex-researcher in Neuroscience, reconverted in science communication. She first tapped into sci-comm by launching the French branch of the Pint of Science festival. Her mission? To make science accessible to everyone, everywhere! Elodie tweets at @EloCha19 

 

With research proposals and grant applications to write, experimental theories to validate and results to present, papers to publish and reviews to perform, all whilst trying to keep up to date with developments in the field, the last thing researchers have in mind is how to polish their ‘communication’ skills. Believe me, I know the feeling.

I am currently working as the International Director of Pint of Science, a science communication festival of events spanning 21 countries, but up until a few months ago, I was a researcher too. I worked for 12 years on Epilepsy, first in Paris where I completed my Ph.D. 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 unraveled secrets, and I still am!

Science communication is an integral and vital part of the research process. Click To Tweet

During those years, I often found myself feeling overwhelmed by all the experiments, student training, article writing (when lucky) 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 at this point when I realized that science communication is an integral and 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. That 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 a unique style of showing why your results and your ideas carry societal value in an accessible open manner. Over time, you manage to become your own personal marketer.

Getting a new perspective

The most interesting feedback I receive from the 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 these types of events, people are asking the ‘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.

You may have brilliant ideas but if you can’t get them across, then what’s the point?

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 receive?

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 view 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 sensitive subjects like 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.

If you publish a paper, it’s not the end of the journey; it’s only the beginning. Click To Tweet

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 a 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 of the Box Office, you have to promote it. It’s the same with research. If you publish a paper, it’s not the end of the journey; it’s only the beginning. There’s always the next grant, you need to draw attention to your work, create a community, and engage the public.

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


Opinions in this blog post are that of the author, and not necessarily that of Hindawi. The profile photo was provided by Elodie Chabrol. The text in this blog post is by Elodie Chabrol and is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Illustration by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.