5 reasons why EMCRs should think about science communication

Associate Professor Joan Leach
Associate Professor Joan Leach

Associate Professor Joan Leach, Chair, National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science, Australian Academy of Science; President of Australian Science Communicators; and convenor of the Science Communication program at The University of Queensland

1. Communicating about your work is an opportunity

Research shows that Australians are 'very interested' in science but don't feel like they get to know enough about it through their usual media channels. Australians also report that they trust scientists just about more than any other group. That means that there is a keen audience quite open to hearing more about your work. Read more or download the report from the Australian National University's Centre for the Public Awareness of Science.

That doesn't mean that everything you do needs to have an accompanying press release, but it does mean that even if your research is highly technical, blue-sky, or just a piece of the larger puzzle of your area of science, you may be surprised how many people would appreciate a casual conversation about it. They will also welcome any effort you make to put your work into the public discussion of science.

2. There is a lot of support for your effort

Australia practically gave the world the 'science communicator' with CSIRO piloting science communicators in the 1960s. Since then, a large and diverse body of professional communicators who specialise in making science accessible has been trained and has been integrated into many university and public institution contexts. If you need support to feel more capable in the area of communication, there is a community that can help. See the Australian Science Communicators website for more information.

The Australian Academy of Science is holding a two-day workshop for young EMCRs to learn about science communication.

3. Communicating broadly brings more attention to your research

There is also an argument from self-interest about the public communication of your research. It's now been shown that those who explain their results or discuss their research further in popular forums and in social media 'enjoy' more citations. (Bik, H. and M. Goldstein 'An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists' PLOS Biology April 23, 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001535)

4. Don't like to communicate? Outsource it.

See #2 above. It's fine to acknowledge that engaging publicly about your work is not your thing. In fact, sometimes it may be better for your career and your mood if you just get on with your research. But, even then, you may find that liaising with a communicator will get your work a wider audience without you having to spend the time fronting it.

5. Communication frames your own agenda

Sometimes in the midst of a project, it helps to step back and take another look from a different perspective. Communicating widely about your work can be motivating—it may remind you why you embarked on this daunting work in the first place. But, also, when you talk about your work, you frame it as important and you point out the directions you would like to see it head. This can be strategic, as in discussions about funding, but communication with a wide array of audiences also sets up your agenda and may feed into your own future thinking about research.

EMCR Pathways Issue 3

© 2020 Australian Academy of Science