A very important aspect of research is being able to effectively communicate your findings to a general audience that is composed of people from many different backgrounds; after all, why wouldn’t you want to share the knowledge you have discovered with as many people as possible? At the same time, however, as important as this is, it can be a very difficult thing to do. During the course of my time so far participating in the Brackenridge Fellowship, listening to guest lecturers and talking to my peers has allowed me to better understand the strategies one can use to share their research to a general audience.
One very obvious (but crucial) practice when discussing your research with people outside of your discipline is to avoid using confusing jargon. While you may be well-versed in the terminology used in your field, trying to communicate your research using field-specific language often only makes it harder for others with different academic backgrounds to understand your research. Moreover, the same terms can be used in different fields but have different meanings and implications, and so relying on jargon to convey your research can also create confusion through misunderstandings.
Another useful strategy to utilize when sharing your research to different audiences is to consider the interests of the people who make up the audience you are interacting with. Although not always plausible, if you can connect the implications of your research to the interests of the particular audience you are speaking with, you should do so, as this can help convince your audience of the importance of your research. For example, in the case of my project that focuses on the therapeutic treatment of peanut allergy, if I wanted to share my research with an audience that has interests in social inequities, I could discuss how the findings of my project could offer an alternative to the current reliance on EpiPens for exposure to allergen, which are not accessible to many marginalized populations.
As an aspiring physician, I hope to apply the communication skills I have learned through the Brackenridge Fellowship to my interactions with my future patients. While it is important to accurately diagnose a patient’s health issues and come up with an effective treatment plan, I also want my patients to understand the implications of their health conditions as to empower them through being informed. Although the content discussed when explaining research versus explaining a health condition may differ, the same strategies for effective communication can be used. To communicate with my patients in a straightforward way, I will avoid using unnecessary technical language that would only make things harder to understand. When creating a treatment plan for my patients, I will prioritize their personal concerns and needs and incorporate them into their care.
Overall, while effectively communicating with others outside your field can be challenging, it is an important skill to have. Throughout the remainder of the Brackenridge Fellowship, I hope to continue developing this skill alongside my peers so that we may apply what we learn to sharing our own research and beyond.