Right Turn: The art of scientific communication

Author: Hamideh Emrani, 11/20/15

I’ve been blogging about some of the talks that I heard at the recent Till & McCulloch Meetings (TMM) in Toronto, Canada. Maybe you’ve read them (featuring speakers Molly Shoichet and Milica Radisic)? For this blog, I want to take a different focus.

TMM is diverse and caters to delegates interested in talks and debates on stem cells, regenerative medicine, ethics and legal issues, and commercialization. You could see the amount of dedicated hard work and passion that went into each poster and presentation. However, for some basic science talks, if you were not already familiar with the research being presented, it took extra effort to stay engaged.

As a scientist who has moved to the realm of science communication, there were a few presentations that stood out to me for their clarity. One was Dr. Margaret Goodell’s talk on how mutations to a single gene (DNMT3A) are involved in blood cancer. She spent a good chunk of her presentation time explaining the relevance of her work. Interestingly, I saw a similar trend in poster presentations by PhD candidates Abdulah al Ani of University of Calgary and Nick Mitrousis of University of Toronto. The common theme was clearly explaining the relevance of the work and then getting to the results and details. It reminded me of this TED talk by Melissa Marshall:

 

I completely understand the challenge for a scientist to not use scientific language and not assume what they know is common knowledge. I still find myself adding jargon to my writing. But we all know the importance of keeping the audience engaged and the old saying: “practice makes perfect.”

While we are at it, actor gone scientific communications trainer, Alan Alda has some interesting thoughts on this topic. I highly recommend watching this video:

 

Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

 

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Hamideh Emrani

Hamideh Emrani

Hamideh is a scientific communicator and the founder of Emrani Communications, serving clients in Toronto (University of Toronto) and California (Stanford University). She earned her B.Sc. in Cell and Molecular Biology at UC Berkeley and finished her M.Sc. at the University of Toronto (U of T). She was an intern at the Carnegie Institute at Stanford University, honours research student at UC Berkeley and has won awards for best podium and best poster presentations at the Faculty of Dentistry and IBBME at U of T. She is passionate about science and loves to talk and write about it. You can follow Hamideh on Twitter at @HamidehEmrani.
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