Focus on…Communicating Your Research

The Autumn term has seen the first Doctoral College Focus On… event. Throughout November the Doctoral College have provided a range of training and networking opportunities for PGRs and ECRs with a Focus On…Communicating Your Research. This included a panel and networking event on Monday 14th November, where PGRs and ECRs gathered to present and discuss their experiences of communicating their research to different audiences and in different fora – from Twitter to 12 year olds.

The event had four invited speakers:

  • Malaka Shwaikh, a PGR in Arab and Islamic studies, who discussed her experiences of PGR and academic communities of Twitter
  • Matthew Knight, a PGR in Archaeology, who discussed using Twitter and Blogging to engage people with his research
  • Richard Cross, a PGR in Biosciences, who discussed his participation in PressGang who advertise the successful research carried out in the Biosciences department at Exeter
  • Maria Weber, an ECR in Astrophysics, who talking about talking about your research – to colleagues, as well as the general public

There was a lot of discussion and debate throughout the session, but for me the key take home messages were:

  • Sometimes it’s not about the amount of followers your blog or twitter account has, but the quality of engagement you get from the followers you have!
  • Practice articulating yours and others research for a general – public – audience is invaluable. It demonstrates that you can make complex ideas ‘digestible’, and will help develop clarity in your research writing generally!
  • Talking to people about your research is about knowing your audience – what they may or may not know about your research topic, and making sure you don’t ‘dumb down’. 12 year olds can understand complex ideas – you just have to find a way to engage with them. Images and objects – engaging other senses – is a great way in to understanding complex ideas.

With the proliferation of social networking sites, and the increasing emphasis on impact and public engagement, there is a clear need for the academy to rethink the way we engage with and communicate our research. Remember there’s lots of training available on twitter, blogging, working the media, public engagement and much more on the Researcher Development programme!

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