The importance of explaining science simply

Science can be a complicated mistress. Whether it be understanding the cosmic influence of quarks and gluons, or the biological reasoning behind using Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) as a model for research, explaining science in layman’s terms is vital to bridging the gap between research experts and the wider public. 

Improving this access is more important now than ever before, especially in light of the increasing numbers of sensationalized science stories splashed across the news. But how can you, as a researcher, condense the complexities of your work into a format that makes sense to everyone?

Here are a few ideas to think about when communicating your research directly to the public.

  1. Use analogies

Analogies are a great tool for breaking down complex processes, simplifying them into an easier-to-understand and more relatable topic. For instance, immunological research could be simplified by relating immune functions to the military, highlighting important immune cells as ‘foot soldiers’, and the destruction processes they are involved in as ‘going to war’. Try to think about the topic of your research, explaining it in a way that makes sense to somebody without a scientific background.

  1. Provide context

It is all well and good explaining the complex methods involved in the research but, a lot of the time, many people struggle to understand the context of research and why it relates to them. When communicating with the public, make sure you condense your work into a format that clarifies your area of research within science. Explain why it will benefit the general public in the long run, before going into further details. Brevity is key.

  1. Utilise social media

Love it or hate it, social media is the best method for reaching the public quickly and directly. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or one of the many other platforms, social media provides an effective way for the public to really engage with scientific news and stories whenever they want.

  1. Animate your research

Studies show that animated videos are fast-becoming a highly effective way of engaging the public. Many people now watch videos to get the information they require – primarily due to ease, convenience, and accessibility. Why not turn your research into an animated video to accompany a written article? Having an engaging, explanatory video based on your research will improve your online presence and help your work to reach a much wider audience.

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