Naturally Speaking has long attracted budding science communicators within the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine. So partly because we are a little bit nosy, but mostly so we could learn more about the world of science communication, we reached out to some of Naturally Speaking’s alumni to find out what they are up to now and what advice they have for people looking to engage the public with their research.
‘Science communication’, ‘public engagement’, ‘impact’? You’ve probably come across a number of these buzz-words but what do they all mean? Well, the science of science communication (yes, that really is a thing!) tells us that if we want to effectively convey the facts, applications, and uncertainties of our research, then we need to know our audience – what do they know or not know, and what do they need to know ? Science communication attempts to fill these gaps, and typically does so in a unidirectional manner – think articles, radio interviews, documentaries or public talks. The foundation of successful public engagement however, places more emphasis on two-way communication where the interaction between scientists and the public is thought to create mutual benefit . The rise of citizen science for example, is a great example of how both wider society and the scientific community can benefit from public engagement projects. In short then, science communication is about getting your research out there.
So why bother trying to communicate your science? As evidenced through the pandemic, public trust in science can affect everything from nationwide policies to the minutiae of daily life . In a circular fashion then, the extent to which the public trusts and values science plays a big role in determining which research gets funded. While the consequences of disseminating clear and accurate information are more obvious for topics such as infectious diseases and vaccines, the benefits of communicating other areas of research can be just as important. Aside from helping to foster trust and acceptance, science communication can also educate decision makers on important issues or even inspire future scientists. Alternatively, maybe you just want to let everyone know that you’ve found a really cool sub-species of frog! Whatever the reason, we thought we would collate some tips and advice on all things science communication from those in the know.
So what does it take to be a good science communicator? Check out our interviews by clicking on the page numbers below to see what Martina, James, Zara, and Mehdi had to say about the wonderful world of science communication.