Translating Scientific Information


During my time as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, there have been several occasions where I’ve left the presentation of an expert in my field of study and been completely baffled as to what they were presenting on. In those cases, I left feeling confused as to the significance of the speaker’s research and why I should care. As a presenter, this is a worst-case scenario. When you have a captive audience, that’s your best opportunity to explain just how significant your research or project is. One of the most important things I’ve learned during this Brackenridge experience is how to more clearly convey my research to others, especially those outside of my field. This is an extremely important skill because many times in the real world the people who care most about the outcomes of your research may not be experts in the field.

             As someone who hopes to pursue a career in an environmental field, this is especially true. The three audiences most likely to be exposed to my work will be other scientists, public health officials, and policy makers. The latter two groups are who I’ll need my work to be most clear for. While these groups might have some background in chemistry and environmental science, it’s unlikely that they will have the same amount of knowledge as I do. Overall, they’ll be most concerned about how the outcomes of my research relates to public health and well-being of the environment. It is this information that they will consider when making decisions about public policy or procedure.

              In order to make my research accessible to everyone there are several strategies I will employ. First, I will begin by explaining the background problem. I will clearly illustrate why it is an issue and what impacts it has on public and environmental health. Next, I will explain how I am addressing this problem and what scientific work I am doing. Because many people may not have prior knowledge about this part of my work, I will put explain complex ideas using metaphors or anecdotes that everyone can relate to. This will serve to “translate” my message from scientific jargon to accessible information. Finally, I will close my presentation by clearly defining to the audience the outcome of my research and why they are significant. I will also include examples or suggestions about how they can apply this information to their own career fields. I feel strongly that by taking these steps, my research will become available to people of all fields and allow them to make more informed, appropriate decisions.

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