Who is responsible for communicating the outcome of research

This question is explored in a community forum of the online journal “The-Scientist.com”. You will find it here

->The importance of good communication skills in science (you may need a subscription to access this page).

Here was my answer.

I would like to attempt answering this important question using two metaphors: Communication of a signal through an electrical network, and communication mediated by wind.

Communication as signal through an electrical circuit (Flickr – by Matthew Boyle)

The scientist who conducted the research is the source of the first signal in a long chain of networked communicators with various degrees of resistance, conductance, and amplification (managers, you are part of that chain – and you could be a resistor, capacitor, or amplifier).
One may argue that, without that sense of exaggeration brought by the “inflated view of the importance of their findings” described in an earlier comment, personal scientific communication would lack the energy necessary to pass through a network unable to easily distinguish signal from noise – even after peer-review. The communicator should indeed be in an excited state for a while. Otherwise, we would have to rely only on the characteristics of the signal transmission path in the network– a network whose amplification characteristics are often – and understandably – biased by the recognition of the success potential of the signal source.

Communication as wind (Flickr – by Hans s)

Naturally, there is chaff and there is wheat. And we need wind to separate the two. The wind of change is one, but also the gentle wind of well-targeted communication. Occasionally, if the impact is great, the wind of mass communication will kick up a storm great enough to blow away the chaff and seed productive ideas across a vast land, as well as return to fallow land parts of the sterile research landscape by depriving it from its life-sustaining grants.

To sum up: the responsibility is collective. Scientists need the press, but they also need to be aware of and energised by the impact of their research. As always, managers have a great role to play to facilitate this, but they need to understand that wind can also snuff a good candle, and that resistors always create heat.

By Jean-luc Lebrun

Author: Jean-Luc Lebrun

This century: Writer on Scientific writing skills and scientific presentation skills, MC for scientific events, Podcaster, Radio Consultant, Trainer for Research Institutes in Engineering and Life Sciences, Singapore, and in European doctoral schools, as well as in South East Asia Universities. Last Century: Apple Computer, Advanced Technology Group, Technology Information manager. Then Director of the Apple-ISS Research Centre - a joint venture between Apple Computer and the National University of Singapore. Producer of TV program on IT for Singapore Channel 5.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *