One Year of Science Communication: A Reflection
One year ago I started communicating my research because I believe it is important to share the results and impact of scientific discoveries with the wider public. It is not enough to just discuss research with fellow scientists. I also realized that even my family and close friends were not fully aware of what I was working on!
Moreover, whenever someone asked me about my job, the answers were somewhat like "Oh wow, working at a university, that's for sure very complicated and difficult work" and I had the feeling people were hesitant to further talk about this. But, it's not all rocket science. Universities are normal buildings with normal people working in it. Most of them are just not very well in communicating their research. This led me to start my SciComm project on Instagram, where I share my research and make it accessible to a wider audience.
The last year has been a challenging but rewarding journey. In this post, I will reflect on some of the challenges I faced in my first year of science communication work:
Lack of Time: One of the biggest challenges I faced (and which is very often mentioned by scientists, when you ask them about barriers to SciComm) was a lack of time. Balancing teaching, research, and communicating about my research can be a difficult task. I often felt like I was stretched thin and constantly trying to prioritize my tasks. That's why, unfortunately, I didn't post as regularly as I had intended. This lack of regularity is probably something that the Insta-algorithm doesn't really like. That's why my resolution for the coming year is to achieve more regularity in my postings.
Let the muse kiss you: I realized that forcing creativity is like trying to herd cats - a frustrating and fruitless endeavor. That's why I started stockpiling content creation when I had enough time and creativity.
Expert's Dilemma: Another challenge I faced was the "expert's dilemma." I often felt that everything I knew was common knowledge and that my audience was ahead of me. This caused me to second-guess myself and sometimes overthink my writing. However, I soon realized that this was just a mental block, and that my audience was eager to learn and appreciate my perspective.
Balancing Scientific Accuracy and Readability: As a science communicator, I'm like a tightrope walker balancing on a thin line between science accuracy and reader comprehension. It's a tough act, but with practice, I got the hang of it. I discovered the secret to success is to keep my writing simple and not overload my readers with big words. Instead, I break down complex ideas into tiny, manageable pieces that are easy to digest.
Explaining Everything in Detail aka “Completeness trap”: I often felt the pressure to explain everything in detail, but soon learned that not everything needed to be explained in depth. I needed to choose what was important to include, and what could be left out without sacrificing the overall message. Especially in a medium as image-heavy as Instagram, you have to set your priorities.
Getting Lost in Canva Templates – Consistent Design: Oh boy, I went down the rabbit hole of Canva templates and couldn't find my way out! Who knew there were so many options for making things pretty? The temptation was high to simply use new designs all the time. But to get a visual concept and recognition value, a decision had to be made. That's why I have now chosen a middle course and defined different designs for different topics (e.g. results from disaster management, general topics from the university sector, science communication, etc.).
In conclusion, my first year of science communication work has been filled with challenges and rewards. I learned that time management is key, and that I should not let the "experts dilemma" hold me back. I also learned to balance scientific accuracy and readability, explain only what is necessary, and keep the design simple.
I look forward to continuing my journey as a science communicator and sharing my passion for science with the world.
I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has taken the time to read, like, and provide feedback on my work. Your support has been invaluable and has helped me overcome (or at least lessen) impostor syndrome. I look forward to continuing this journey and making science accessible to everyone.