This is one segment in a series of posts about storytelling. These posts will focus on the use of storytelling as an effective means of communication, education, and marketing. Storytelling is a wonderful way to share complex ideas in a memorable manner. This post examines the benefits of explaining why you do scientific research and of using storytelling to share your data.
Dr. Atif Kukaswadia made several excellent points in his TED talk. During this talk, he shared his first experience with the media and what he learned when sharing his data with non-scientists. First, he emphasized that anyone can understand complex ideas if they are explained properly. He next explained that researchers could improve their communication skills, and how their data is received, by focusing on the why and by using storytelling. By adding these two elements, anyone (laypeople, reporters, investors, scientists outside of the field, etc.) should be able to understand and to appreciate what scientists have accomplished and are currently doing.
Have you ever been asked what you do, while at a party or sitting next to a stranger in the airport? Most people can readily explain what they do, but many people forget to explain why they do it. Dr. Kukaswadia advised in his talk that researchers explain why they perform their experiments and why these studies are important. Is there a reason that you choose to focus on your topic? For example, do you study a particular disease because someone you cared about was affected? Does your work seek to fill a major gap in our current knowledge? By answering the why, you engage you audience, teach them your data, and promote appreciation for scientific endeavors.
Dr. Kukaswadia is also a proponent for using storytelling when sharing one’s research. One of the benefits of learning to use scientific storytelling is that one learns how to explain why they performed research in an intriguing and logical fashion. To build a narrative, the storyteller needs to explain what has happened before and to communicate what will happen after the dilemma is solved. A scientific storyteller sets up the narrative (e.g. what was previously known?) and explains the problem (e.g. what major gap in our knowledge does your research address or how does the new technique overcome previous limitations?). This allows your audience to learn about what you do relative to the work of others and to appreciate its significance.
Motionbirth takes scientific storytelling to the next level. The artists and animators at Motionbirth collaborate with researchers to create stunning, yet informative, videos. These videos allow complex models and ideas to be shared easily with diverse audiences, which may include your scientific peers and laypeople. Investors or reporters that lack a scientific background will be captivated by these visual narratives depicting your research. Your audience members can quickly grasp the current scientific model and appreciate its significance. Video storytelling is a phenomenal way to educate and excite others about your work.