From Geek to Speak

When going about conveying a complex research question to a broad audience, it can be difficult to translate technical jargon into layman’s terms without letting go of the focus of the research itself. My project specifically is based in neuroscience and relies heavily on long, complicated terminology – some of which even I am not familiar with yet – so simplifying this language has posed quite a challenge. 

Over the past few weeks I’ve learned a number of strategies that ease this challenge, the most effective of which is focusing on the audience. While some are only looking for a brief contextualization and significance summary, others are geared more towards technicalities. Before detailing my project I ask myself the following questions: Who am I speaking with? Are they familiar with physiology? How much do they want to know? These determine the degree of specificity to which I’ll describe my research to ensure the maximum relevance and impact for my audience. 

For those with little-to-no background in neuroscience, the use of metaphors and analogies has also been a great help in communicating my research. One I commonly use compares the brain rehabilitation tool I am studying to solving a Rubix Cube in a group; they both stimulate the brain by encouraging cognitive activity, group interaction, and learning. This stimulation is what we believe results in the growth of neurons in the brain and enhances neural recovery after injury. The question I am answering in my research is, how?

A critical aspect of research is marketing the implications of your findings. In other words, making the research relevant to others. The only way research can have true influence in the world is if the right people understand its potential, including policy makers and investors in the field. Translating the neurorehabilitation method I am studying into a clinical atmosphere will require the trust of healthcare and public health officials, trust that I will have to gain. This is just one example of where I will be interacting with a range of individuals in my journey into medicine, and just one of many instances where the skill of succinctly disclosing the pertinence of my research will be used.

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