A great man once said, “Scientists are inherently crappy communicators”, and as someone who has one foot in both worlds, I can definitely say that this is true.
Scientists, especially those that come from the hard-core world of science where I lurk, have this inherent need to “talk shop”, no matter who they are talking to, whether it’s a colleague from a similar field of expertise, a farmer trying to understand the newest innovations in agriculture, or a young professional trying to cement her relationships within the agricultural sphere.
On one hand, this could be a great thing. Science is, at its very core, a black-and-white exchange of information with finite principles and sets of ideas, and it would be no use to anyone if everyday slang and jargon – especially if you’re talking with people who have different languages – gets woven into the language of science.
On the other hand, though, science AS a language is damned near incomprehensible, even between and among people who are in related-fields. Most scientists won’t admit it, even to themselves, but when they are faced with a research paper that has the thickness of your average Encyclopedia, they’ll nope on out of there as well. Sure, they’ll give their perfunctory nods and “Good jobs”, but during their most private moments, they’ll know that they won’t have understood anything beyond the abstract of these papers.
I know this, because I am guilty of this as well.
This challenge of communication was impressed upon me in no more real terms than during the “social media” round of the YAP competition. I had this proposal that I needed to get likes, views, and comments on, and to be able to get those good comments, I needed people to understand what the project was about.
So the challenge was to find a way to make the YAP proposal understandable and accessible to everyone, considering that a good 95% of the people on my social media had no agricultural background whatsoever.
Here I made a decision of KISS-ing: Keeping It Simple, Sweetheart.
Before I even made the YAP proposal live, I had to swallow my pride and ask non-agricultural friends to look over the proposal, so that I knew that the same audience online would be able to grasp the idea and principles in the proposal.
Surprise, surprise: it worked!
So that’s the challenge to each and every scientist out there: leaving behind the confines of “lab” talk, and getting down and dirty in the world of communication. Communication is dynamic and ever-changing in itself, because it is influenced by trends, social structures, media, and most importantly, people.
Yes, it seems like an unlikely marriage: the hard-core language of science, with the dynamic and fluid language that is communication, but when you boil it down to the goal – the sharing of information and the modernization of practices to uplift agriculture-, suddenly, it’s so much more simple. That was also clearly stressed during the #GCARD3 social media bootcamp.
So yes, keep on KISS-ing, out there, my fellow scientists, and hope that those in the field of communications feel the love!
Blogpost by Josine Macaspac, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – josinemacaspac(at)yahoo.com
Photo courtesy: Jim Cano
This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.