The importance of communicating scientific insights to a broader public has received greater recognition lately – even before the considerable boost it got as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. An increasing need of researchers and research institutions to have more resources for science outreach and science communication is taking place in parallel to a growing demand from broad segments of the population for reliable information, and all of this is being exacerbated by the declining allocation of funds to science journalism seen in some countries. Sticking to my perspective as a science communicator, I won’t dwell on the latter today, but would like to share a few insights on the challenges and joys of SciComm.

Science communication is ideally done in a team, and as the person commissioned with this task, I have often found myself caught between two worlds. On the one hand, my many years of communicative and journalistic thinking have shaped me: I always strive to carve out a story and to push the researchers I work with to shape their findings in a way that creates an engaging story. On the other hand, I find myself pushing back against my fellow communicators who want to make content even more readable and attractive by polishing away its rough edges.

On these occasions, I often find myself repeating in my head, like a mantra: “Avoid oversimplification,” or “It’s ok to admit that we don’t know something (yet),” or “Don’t underestimate your reader”. Sometimes, the mantra goes in the opposite direction: “Don’t overestimate your reader.” And finally, “Thou shalt not mix up causation and correlation” (oh yes, the cardinal sin!).

Telling a gripping story that integrates the unknown

I owe this rigor not only to the scientists – as it helps to eradicate at least some of the opportunities for involuntary misinterpretation and malignant misconstruction. I also owe it to the audience, who has the right to receive high-quality and honest information. Jointly creating a gripping story that integrates the unknown, yet-to-be-explored, is the feat to be accomplished when working with researchers. And the shared sense of achievement when this happens is one of the reasons why being a science communicator, exhausting as it may sound, has given me a strong daily dose of joy and satisfaction.

During these negotiation processes between readability and rigor, the fact that I’m not a scientist is more often than not an advantage. I can relate to the thinking of the audience; I know how something will be understood or misunderstood. While trying to strike a balance between the principles of science and those of communication, I often have the impression that I’m the devil’s advocate. This is why mutual trust is essential in this type of collaboration.

Fellow science communicators, what are your mantras?


I originally published this post on my LinkedIn profile in September 2020.