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.
Sandro Scandolo is a computational physicist at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP). In our interview below, he shared how his experience with Springer Nature Storytellers taught him that talking about failures in research can not only make for an interesting story, but it can also help advance science.
I had given shorter talks about my research and longer presentations about my research and about my institution.
Previously I had concentrated on describing a concept, or a result of my research. Storytelling is about stories, so I had to rearrange the concepts in the form of a story. I enjoyed putting together the pieces in a different order and with a different narrative flow. I was surprised to realize that telling my own personal story was the most effective way to do it.
I knew I was going to tell my story to an audience eager to hear about science and I expected that other storytellers would be talking about their own research, so I decided to emphasize instead the human side of science, to the point that I constructed my story in a way that the description of my research was the starting point of the real story, not the end.
I believe so. The experience changed my perspective on how we scientists communicate the results of our research, not just to the general public, but also among ourselves. Research in our labs is a constantly unfolding story but in papers and technical talks we normally present only its results and how they follow from the premises. We omit difficulties and failures. Not only would difficulties and failures make a great story, but if known, they would also be of great benefit for the advancement of science.
Concentrate on the narrative flow. Practice, practice, practice.
Sandro Scandolo is a computational physicist working at the ICTP, a UNESCO institute based in Trieste, Italy. The institute is a driving force behind global efforts to advance scientific expertise in the developing world and Sandro contributes to its mission leading the institute's Research Division and spending most of his time in airplanes to visit physicists in the most remote corners of the world.