An audience likes to see the 'human' in scientists: Lessons from Springer Nature Storytellers

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The Source
By: Lucy Frisch, Mon Feb 24 2020
Lucy Frisch

Author: Lucy Frisch

Springer Nature Storytellers hosted an event at Berlin Science Week in which five researchers on the front lines of discovery shared true stories about life behind the science. We asked each of the storytellers to tell us what it was like to communicate about their research in a more personal way. Listen to the stories they told and read more about what they learned from the experience. 

Liane G. Benning is a biogeochemist who was at first admittedly wary of sharing the more personal side of her work. In our interview below, she explains how she came to love the process and how valuable it was to learn to share who she is beyond her science. 

What was your experience with storytelling and research communications before participating in the Berlin Storytellers event?

I haven't had any real ‘online’ experience with this type of outreach. Storytelling from a personal point of view was in part new as usually I just ‘sell’ one of my science stories but not my personal path.

How was the storytelling experience different from other forms of science communication that you've done?

Very different. The training and working together with Christine (The Story Collider) and Lucy (Springer Nature) showed me a new side of myself ;-) I must also say that despite it feeling weird initially when asked about the personal side of my work, I absolutely loved it. Christine and Lucy very much helped me shape my text into a nice five point story and this was a fantastic experience. I learned that it is ok to also tell the audience who "I am" and how I became 'the scientist' that I am today.

How did you prepare to tell your story in front of this particular audience?

I had four online meetings with Christine (producer from The Story Collider), writing and rewriting my story down and discussing with her how best to shape it, ultimately practicing it so that I felt like my speech was free and I was not reading my story.  

How did the actual event compare to your expectations?

I was happy that it went well and although ultimately I went a little over time, I think the flow of the story kept the audience enthralled. 

Was there anything that you took away from the experience that you plan to incorporate in your life as a researcher?

Yes, absolutely. It is ok to add personal aspects in any outreach talks as the audience likes to see the ‘human’ in scientists and not just the science they do. It is not my style to talk about myself but shaping the story so that personal sharing aspects were comfortable to me also was great. 

Liane G. Benning leads a team of enthusiastic junior and less junior researchers who together study reactions at interfaces between minerals, microbes and solutions so that they can better understand processes at the Earth Surface.  She has a PhD from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich and she has spent 17 years in the UK at the University of Leeds. She's now a Professor in Interface Geochemistry both at the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam and at the Free University in Berlin.

Lucy Frisch

Author: Lucy Frisch

Lucy Frisch is a Senior Marketing Manager on the Outreach and Open Research team, based in the New York office. She has a passion for storytelling and works to humanize the research published across Springer Nature with a focus on the researcher experience.