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  • Writer's pictureCamille Thomson

Camille’s top 5 tips for effective science translation

Earlier this year, I attended Science Meets Parliament. The experience was eye opening, but not in ways that I thought it would be.

 

The goal of Science & Technology Australia’s annual flagship event is to create connections between the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics sectors and the nation’s key decision and policy makers. Across the two days, delegates were able to hear from advisors, parliamentarians, journalists and eminent scientists who shared their experiences in talking about science - from experts doing the research, to those in policy who can do something about the outcomes.

 

During this event, I had an epiphany - the key to making a solid pitch to a policy maker is remarkably similar to the methods used by effective science communicators.

 

Effective communication is critical in this era of misinformation, and the same is true for science communication. Here are my top five tips to unlocking science communication.

Become a mini expert

Actively listen to the scientist/researcher doing the work. Ask questions about any part you don’t understand, as you can be sure your audience will have the same questions.

 

Enlist a non-expert

If you’re already an expert, or it’s a topic you’ve been immersed in for a while, then present your communications to someone who is not engaged in the discipline, encouraging them to ask about what they don’t understand. When you’ve been close to the work, you might be surprised by how many abbreviations, jargon short cuts and assumed prior knowledge can creep in.

 

Find your hook

What is the thing your audience can relate to that will be their gateway to understanding the concept you’re trying to communicate? It may not explain a whole idea, even just enough to provide a scaffold to attach information to. This works for a large audience or a one-on-one meeting with a Parliamentarian.

 

Don’t bury your headline

You usually have only a short time to capture someone’s attention and interest. Make sure the key message is early enough so your audience knows what you want to get across and what you want them to do with the information.

 

Be realistic about what you’re going to relay

If your audience is coming with little or no knowledge, you may only be able to carry them the first step of the way. If they are excited, they will come back for more. If you load too much new information at one time, you might lose them.

 

In summary, science is everywhere, and anyone can be excited about it. Some people think because they were ‘bad’ at science in school, they won’t understand it now. But understanding a general concept is different to understanding the mechanics underneath. Project your excitement about it, and your audience will get swept up… it’s infectious!

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