Most researchers know that communication is a key part of any research career. But few feel confident in communicating their research to different audiences. As a result, they could be missing out on opportunities to disseminate their research findings and raise their profile within and beyond their field. In this blog, we delve into why it's crucial to communicate science effectively and how to assist researchers in sharing engaging stories about their work.
Researchers recognise that making research understandable, engaging, relatable and impactful – especially to non-scientific audiences – is one of the most important tasks they need to carry out, otherwise no one will see or understand the impact of their work. In fact, 90% of researchers and 86% of research managers who participated in a Nature Masterclasses survey believe that communication is a key skill for a successful research career.
But it’s not only researchers themselves who stand to benefit from good science communication. Science will always find its way into popular culture, and – if done well – can engage and educate the public, and motivate and inspire budding researchers of the future. Indeed, in the early 1990s when the X-Files first aired, there was a notable increase in the number of women starting careers in STEM professions – heralded as “the Scully Effect”.
Yet, despite recognising the need to communicate about their work, 81% of researchers surveyed by Nature Masterclasses told us that conveying complex science to non-science audiences is an area they struggle with.
In a recent panel discussion on different types of research impact, Ikuko Oba, Springer Nature’s Commercial Director for Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and Oceania, shared that although 94% of surveyed researchers in Japan agreed on the importance of communicating their research to the community; 21% had not done this within the last three years, and 12% had never communicated their research.
One of the difficulties with communicating research is that specialist topics and traditional metrics are not always meaningful or relevant to people outside the academic community. One mechanism that can help with this is storytelling. When researchers tell the real-life story of their research and its impact for humankind, it becomes more tangible and meaningful to any audience.
People have communicated by storytelling for millions of years, but all too often, researchers can be caught up in the technical detail of their research and forget about the ‘who’. ‘why’ and ‘what’ of their work and how it fits into the real world.
The Springer Nature Storytellers programme aims to help researchers tell the human story of their work by allowing them to talk about their real-life experiences and share a side of themselves that they don’t typically show the public.
There are more examples in our top 10 research stories of 2022 blog that could serve as storytelling inspiration for your researchers. What all these stories have in common is a strong narrative and a message that draws people in. So how can you help your researchers find their narrative?
There are a number of things institutions can do to help researchers in communicating their science:
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