Yesterday at Scitech nearly 100 science communicators gathered to network, share ideas and hear from some of Australia’s exciting and most influential scientists and communicators.
Highlights of the day included an opening address by the funny, inspiring and very switched-on Professor Peter Klinken, WA’s Chief Scientist.
5 quick quotes from Professor Klinken at #comm2inspire:
- Scientists need to wave flags, ring bells and share their work: “You might’ve done the very best experiment in the world, you might‘ve just won the Nobel prize…but until you actually communicate with your peers and the outside world, no one knows what you’ve done.”
- Communicators need to know who they’re communicating with: “What is really important in communication, clearly, is understanding where the other person is coming from. If you’re speaking a foreign language [overly complicated science], they’re not going to understand it. It’s almost insulting.”
- People fund science (if their politicians let them): “At the end of the day, who’s paying for the research? …Taxpayers. Every person is contributing towards our ability to do science. We need to bring them along, so they’ll be our supporters.”
- People appreciate science (mostly): “The community values science, but if you don’t communicate with them, and bring them along in the journey, they think you’re a bunch of nerds. It is incumbent upon all of us to be able to talk to the community.”
- As Australians we take our fabulous lifestyle for granted (but how long will it last?): “We do not value science, innovation and creativity as much as we should…but we know everything about Eric Mackenzie’s ACL joint.” Paraphrasing Lord Alec Broers: “The pace of technology is relentless…Nations that do not keep up and invest in in this area will be consigned to a second world.”
And another super keynote by Australian of the Year burns surgeon Professor Fiona Wood, who rushed from her burns unit to give a flawless, wryly funny and thoroughly engaging presentation before rushing to her next appointment: her energy, passion and schedule are thoroughly awe-inspiring. I could watch her present all day.
- Hospitals are a place where science and communication must go hand in hand: “I face people whose lives have changed in an instant. When you meet me professionally, you’re having a bad day…It is a privilege to be a medical practitioner. It’s a privilege to influence people’s lives. As a clinician I need to understand that I am a conduit [between science and people who benefit from science].”
- Today is not as good as it gets: “If today is as good as it gets, then I may as well go home. I believe tomorrow is going to be better. That is my fundamental belief, and my fundamental coping strategy.”
- Science communication is like an onion: Prof Wood likened communicating science to peeling an onion, suggesting we should explain layer by layer, depending on the level of interest, and stop before their eyes start streaming. “Why keep it to yourself? Why expect that people couldn’t understand it? The onus is on you.”
- Know your audience: We all have a passion that can be switched on to galvanise and engage: “Everyone has an interest. Sometimes you have to dig a bit to find it.”
- Our community depend on us: “Unless we communicate, we won’t get funding. Without funding, we won’t make progress.”
And so what did I personally learn? I’ve been in science communication for nearly 15 years, and these were the tips that resonated most with me as things I could do better every day:
5 top science communication tips I picked up from #comm2inspire:
- Want someone to remember your message? Tell them a truthful and emotive story.
- Want to work with a scientist to bring the message of their research to a wider, non-science audience? Tell them that.
- Want people to click on your link? Be bold with your headline.
- Want to turn a roomful of awkward strangers into a group of joke-cracking, knowledge-sharing friends? Try 20 minutes of speed networking (even crazier in a noisy room).
- Want to know what to do next? Ask yourself the question: What does success look like?
I was thrilled to be part of yesterday’s conference. I really had a fab day, so thanks to the organisers for bringing the event to Perth (and especially for the photos I’ve used here), to Inspiring Australia and to everyone who was part of it. It’s great to be working with you!