Communicating science

artist's book. Monica Peters. Ed1/1. Dunedin 2003

Practical Handbooks for the Observation of Men and their Methods. artist’s book. Monica Peters. Ed1/1. Dunedin 2003

Academia comes with a very specific language. On one hand it’s about bringing together ideas in a very concise form – often meaning heavy use of technical language. On the other hand, it’s trying to make clear the concepts, arguments, theories and so on that enrich the research.

On communicating science, author, filmmaker and radio host Allison Ballance described her process of writing as one of distilling sentences and phrases to poetry – there are no excess words; each word has meaning. That seems an insurmountable challenge, though something to aspire to. Einstein’s quote “make it simple but no simpler” seems to appear more and more often. I agree with it whole-heartedly, though there’s still this pervasive misunderstanding that ‘making it simple’  means ‘dumbing down’. Wrong. It’s just tailoring content to the audience – explaining concepts and using terms that make more sense; dropping unnecessary detail (yes, those BIG words) and placing findings in a relevant context.

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