Scientists (and all researchers), let’s be honest, the further and deeper we delve into our work, the less people we can talk about our research with. McGill Global Health Program‘s day-long workshop on April 27 Sharing Your Research and Telling Your Story (So People Will Hear It) reminded us that science matters, not just to researchers but to the public as well. Sharing and advocating for our research is essential in a democratic society as it is the only way for things to get better.
Knowledge is power, right? If we are more knowledgeable on certain topics, we can apply that knowledge to create positive change. In terms of global and public health policy, this can mean saving lives, resources and money. For example, research demonstrated that certain strains of HPV lead to cervical cancer. A vaccine was developed to combat these strains of HPV and prevent cervical cancer. These researchers communicating their work to the public and to policy makers has directly affected the lives millions of women across the world.
Communicating the impact of research to the public leads to change by creating awareness. Getting people to actually care about your research will begin to create a place for it in the values of society. What did you do and why is that different from what we know now? Why should we care? The workshop taught us that the most effective way to do this is through stories. Your research is your story. There are different people affected, challenges faced and (hopefully) victories had. Data gets people to pay attention, data combined with a story gets people to care. Madhukar Pai, the director of McGill Global Health Programs said it best “A good story is like an onion. I want to peel down to the inner skin and be crying cause it is so rich in data”.
Invited panelist Dr. David Secko, the chair of Journalism at Concordia University shared his of tips to being a good advocate for your research
- Know the facts, and use them.
This means knowing your data, the data of the other researchers and how it fits together with yours, but also the data of your opposition and how you respond to it.
- Have a clear and concise message
Stay simple. You should be able to explain your message and research in a Twitter like manner, that means in 120 (or now 280) characters max! Remember to tailor your message to who you want to influence. If you want to influence the public, tell them a story they will remember. If you want to influence politicians, talk money.
- Nurture relationships
Research and advocacy is a team sport. Connect with other researchers in your field, online or in person at conferences and collaborate! Remember to say ‘thank you’ as everyone’s time and contribution is important.
At the end of the day, there is a reason you chose to pursue research in your field, because you care about it. Remember that, channel it and share it with others and they will too!
Banner image taken by Saima Ahmed (steezsister)