In today’s society, it is simply not enough for scientists to do good science. It also requires to communicate their science to the public, and in that process help to shape the public’s perception of science. Through science communication, scientists have an opportunity to not only challenge common misconceptions about science but also garner public support, especially in terms of public research funding.
In my quest to develop my public engagement skills, I participated in FameLab 2018, a science communication competition organised by the British Council, in which scientist aim to clearly communicate their research to the public in three minutes! In preparation for the competition, a one day presentation workshop was organised for all participants from Wageningen University & Research.
Content, clarity and charisma
My take home message from the workshop, led by a professional communication coach Ward van Beek, were the three Cs of a good science communication:
- Content: Content must never be sacrificed, no matter the level of simplification of one’s message. Without much scientific content, the whole aim of science communication is defeated.
- Clarity: It is the communicator’s responsibility to be creative and use languages and illustrations that the audience can easily understand, without risking oversimplification. As Albert Einstein said, “make things as simple as possible, but not simpler”.
- Charisma: Simply put, the scientist must show that he/she is excited about the science and is eager to communicate it to the audience.
Genomic prediction for outsiders
As trivial as it seemed from the beginning, it was not an easy task to condense my whole PhD project into a simple and clear message lasting only 3 minutes. However, it was a really nice experience for me to see the evolution of my story from one that was full of big scientific terms to one that that tries to engage a non-scientific audience. During the competition, I presented about genomic prediction, a valuable tool that helps farmers to make better and informed decisions about the future of their farms, especially in terms of genetic performance.
Personal development more important than winning
At the end, I did not win the competition. But as good as winning the competition would have been, my goal for participation was mainly to develop my communication skills and prepare myself for any future public engagement about science. I think I achieved that goal. My FameLab participation was a very big step in the right direction!