Of Research and Communications
By LifETIME CDT Student: Narina Bileckaja (University of Glasgow)
As a young researcher, I tend to evaluate the quality of my work by tracking how many experiments I carried out and the amount and quality of data I acquired. However, I recently started considering what the general public’s opinion about science and research might be. The more I explored how science is presented to the public, the more I realised that oftentimes scientists are not doing a good job of ‘translating’ their research into a language that is understandable for everyone. The main reason for that, is that we tend to instinctively use passive voice, construct long sentences, and use scientific terms that are the everyday norm for our field, but mean nothing to other scientists and public.
Many LifETIME CDT projects are focused on new, advanced technologies that enable researchers to carry out human-relevant studies. My PhD project is no exception. Such science developments are the steppingstones for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, as well as doctors, to find new ways to improve people’s quality of life. Moreover, multidisciplinary approach to finding new scientific solutions means that we can become better at detecting and treating various diseases. The research we do everyday concerns everyone, as we research things that will help others in the future. Thus, I came to realise how important it is to write about science for a wide range of audiences. To learn this skill, I decided to do a placement with an organisation that has science communications and public engagement at its heart.
I could not have found a better place than Animal Free Research UK charity. This charity communicates with both the public and the scientific community, hence I got a chance to see how the communication style changes depending on the target audience, and how important a good newsletter is when it comes to promoting an organisation. During my placement with Animal Free Research UK I learnt how crucial the wording and the tone of every written piece is for conveying the message in a clear and understandable way. I also learnt how important it is to always keep in mind who you are writing for, and what your audience is interested in.
The main aim of my placement was to work on a newsletter that would engage a wide range of audiences and have something to offer to readers with different expertise and interests. To do that, I started with conducting market research, which meant comparing various scientific newsletters and analysing their pros and cons.
The goal of my project was to establish how the Animal Free Research UK newsletter could attract scientists from different research fields, as well as draw in other readers who might or might not know about human-relevant science. The main message conveyed by the Animal Free Research UK newsletter is the importance of reducing the number of animals used in research, and every statement made in the newsletter is supported by scientific evidence.
Clear and engaging communication is vital for a more widespread understanding of the issue and the barriers currently faced by those who want to change the situation. What better way to spread the awareness than creating a newspaper?
The science communication placement with Animal Free Research UK made me appreciate, more than ever, the importance of engaging and inclusive writing in scientific communications. As a scientist, I focus on data and experiments, but at the end of the day the research I do should be one of the many small steps towards improving research and healthcare. So why not talk about the exciting, life-changing science in a way that is interesting and engaging for as many people as possible?