Scientific Communication: How to Foster Innovation and Enlarge Your Business
Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Simplicity, however, can sometimes be the hardest thing to achieve, because topics only seem uncomplicated to an uninitiated audience when an expert, who is capable of completing an activity with a total control explains them.
Humans have been nurturing a passion for scientific research ever since our ancestors developed a capacity for greater existential awareness.
Science is a long learning process, with regular hurdles, that are overcome step by step, following the logic of trial and error, challenging the ideas of previous scientists, and encouraging the necessary innovation and creativity required to remain on the path of progress that will lead to new findings.
It is essential for researchers to have unceasing discussions with themselves and their colleagues as well as an intangible conversation with the object of their research in an effort to establish a ‘dialogue’ with the hypothesis that they are trying to prove. Ultimately, they practice communication as a daily process with the purpose of continuing their investigations.
But in a foreign environment, far from their laboratories, their peers and colleagues, and their institutes, the communication code too often turns into a problem because the general population doesn’t speak the same language as scientists. Dozens of existing jokes about engineers, who try to bridge this communication gap through humorous explanations, actually paint an accurate picture of the disparity between the scientific community and the rest of society.
The above-mentioned gap is a threat to the scientific sector at large. That’s because communication is the perfect tool to connect and engage with other disciplines that ultimately enable the existence of the scientific sector itself, namely, consumers, funders, clients, and authorities.
How many times have we heard researchers complaining about the small budgets they have to develop their projects with?
How often do we see scientists receiving insufficient salaries in comparison to the level of their scientific capacities?
Getting strategic advice and adding a new partner – communication – to each research project can improve this unfair situation.
With the appropriate communication and visibility strategies, the possibilities of a research project, think tank, tech business or research institute are immensely multiplied because a good strategy will allow the research to reach new people, markets and sources of funding.
Nowadays, communication is a crosscutting activity that is present in our daily life, even if usually we are not fully aware of it. If you stop for a minute and think about how many hours we all spend every day reading mails, watching videos, using social media, sending text messages, listening to the radio, etc., you’ll easily realize the level of involvement we all hold in the modern ‘communication society’.
The most relevant organizations are fully aware of this reality, and that’s why they allocate considerable attention and resources to all communication aspects of their business. Just think about organizations like Apple, Red Bull, Samsung or NASA, to name a few.
Even the European Union has understood the need of having strong communication strategies: this is why in the ‘Horizon 2020’ funding programme it is now mandatory to have a communication plan for every research project, with a strategy to share and promote the project’s results and key activities - during all phases - and after the finalization of the assignment.
This is why the EU is investing all these resources in the scientific sector – because it needs to justify its spending to its citizens (who fund research through the taxes they pay). Therefore, it is crucial to use the right language and channels when explaining and convincing different sectors of society about new findings. Moreover, it is vital to reach diverse societal groups like politicians, civil society organizations, consumers, students, trade unions, businessmen and so on with tailored messages, adapted to each of their cultures and backgrounds.
Moreover, today, when we are constantly overloaded with information and communication products, it is essential to do a professional job on understanding the context of each scientific situation before identifying the right message, its content, channel and timing to guarantee the effectiveness of the marketing campaign.
Traditionally, science has faced some challenges in communication, as it is often composed of intangible ideas, complex scenarios and innovative concepts.
Visualizing the scientific results may be as difficult as it is to strike a balance between clarity, attraction and scientific accuracy.
To solve this issue it is essential to work with scientific communication experts, who are capable of understanding the needs and goals of every project and translating them into powerful messages, so that they can attract new funds and business opportunities. Therefore, if science needs innovation, so does communication.
This is where scientific communication experts combine their creativity and story-telling capacities with the most breaking tools: to give you strategic advice, to train your staff and to design and produce effective and powerful experiences.
Among other techniques one can make use of engaging campaigns, animated infographics, 3D visualizations, documentaries, online marketing campaigns, touching success stories, illustrations, graphic design, modern websites with interactive maps, cartoons, motivating videos, publications, Lip Dubs or organizing events with tailored shows.
All these resources need to be accurately selected and combined with core ideas to be disseminated for each research project and/or tech company. The final goal is to transform the main outcomes and achievements into a unique selling point, to allow the scientific ideas and research to reach the market and expand its business.
The ultimate goal of communication is to accompany the scientists in their trip from the laboratory to the marketplace, where they will take the lessons learned in this journey and use them for the future.
To accomplish this, we choose to adopt the Science Communication Cycle and handle this process using a human approach. Because at the end of the day, we don’t just work with organizations, we work with people. And this is why science needs to be communicated with a human perspective.
“The ideal scientist thinks like a poet, writes like a bookkeeper. But he’s still a poet inside.”
This is how the reputed biologist and writer E.O. Wilson describes scientific storytelling.
And that’s the job that scientific communication is committed to take on: to assist scientists in building a bridge between them and the rest of society, allowing them to create a mutually beneficial collaboration.
This is how scientific communication contributes to the expansion of R&I.
This is what we do at Vision Communication.
This is #comm4action
(Article published by Ramon Vila, Director of Vision Communication, in APRE Magazine: http://www.apre.it/media/453747/03-apre_magazine.pdf)