Communicating with Interdisciplinary Researchers

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All research is important. All knowledge gained from primary research is crucial for society to progress as a whole. Unfortunately, uploading research publications to official journals does not immediately upload all the new information into our brains. Furthermore, understanding research outside of one’s discipline proves difficult yet vital for interdisciplinary work.

Learning how to communicate one’s research projects and findings can be a daunting yet rewarding task. Reflecting on the purpose and significance of research, I cannot help but realize that just as conducting primary research has a purpose, sharing the knowledge with other researchers both in and out of the respective field is just as important because it helps us connect formerly abstract ideas into practical solutions. As previously stated, communicating research to those outside the field can be challenging, but not impossible.

When attempting to communicate my research, I tend to rely on a few strategies. First, I ty to place myself into my past self when I was equally as uneducated in the topic as those outside the field. How would my past self want this research to be expressed? To reduce ambiguity and maximize comprehension for the audience, I primarily focus on the language I am using, without jeopardizing the authenticity of the research. For example, I would begin with the specific jargon that is accepted in my field, and then proceed to rephrase it in laymen’s terms that can be understood by the general public. This not only allows the audience to understand the information I am presenting, but also appreciate the research and the field of study.

Another strategy I would use is analogies, while focusing on simplicity over accuracy. A strong analogy in my personal opinion strays away from complicated comparisons, and rather focuses on taking a concept from the research and appropriately equating it to a simple topic that the audience would understand. I would rather use multiple small analogies rather than one large, complex analogy because following along with one analogy distracts attention from the content of the research. For example, I would analogize a genetic mutation with the following: if one’s genetic information is like a sentence, a common mutation would be similar to replacing a word in the sentence with any random word. In most cases, the new word would not make sense in the sentence; similarly, in most cases a replaced nucleotide or amino acid would not make sense to the cell. While plausible, I would not attempt to describe my entire project with an analogy because it could potentially confuse the audience and detract from the original subject.

My last strategy is to interact with the audience and check for level of understanding, either through a question that requires comprehension of the ideas communicated so far, or simply asking if the audience is following along. I consistently remind myself, in situations other than presentations, that communicating research is a conversation; I am speaking with the audience, not at them. Therefore, whenever possible, I try to check in with my audience to make sure we are on the same page before proceeding.

Communicating research findings is crucial in the field of medicine. As an aspiring physician-researcher, I am constantly criticizing my ability to convey information to those outside my field. Medical professionals are commonly interacting with others in various occupations to brainstorm novel practical solutions, both within and outside the broad field of medicine. A medical specialist in one specialty may need to communicate with another from a remotely related specialty of medicine to properly diagnose a patient or group of patients; similarly, a medical specialist may need to interact with physicists, engineers, and others to connect clinical/biomedical research with engineering to create new biomedical machinery. Whichever the case may be, communicating my research with others is a critical skill to possess, and one that requires consistent practice.

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