HSRF 3: Communicating My Research

Communicating one’s research can be a challenging and complex task. While it may be easy to communicate with those within one’s own field, it can become increasingly more difficult as you move away from your field and converse with people who do not have a background to understand what you are saying. The fact is, no matter how good of a researcher you are or how revolutionary your work may be, if you cannot properly communicate with different types of people, you or your work will not progress. A common audience one might have to explain their research to would be a general audience, where the audience is not qualified in your field, and does not hold any type of previous knowledge about your research, even if they are highly educated. With this type of research communication being a common occurrence, and it often being important in terms of funding and approval, it is critical that every researcher is capable of communicating with a general audience. 

One strategy for effective communication when speaking with a general audience is to avoid field specific jargon. By avoiding jargon, you are able to keep your audience engaged and allow them to continue to understand the conversation and prevent them from becoming confused. If it is absolutely necessary to use jargon, then it is important for the term to be defined and explained in a detailed and organized manner. The reader must have a solid understanding of the term being introduced by the end of the explanation, or else they may become confused as it will be continually referenced throughout the conversation. Another way to help a general audience understand your work is to use analogies that they would understand. If you are able to draw comparisons to work your audience is familiar with or something that everyone has experienced, then you are able to better explain concepts that otherwise would require a deep and complex understanding. 

As a bioengineer, my goal is to create products that have direct applications in helping patients. By the nature of the field, it is not the researchers who are funding their work, rather large companies, research institutions, or private investors. In the case of private investors, these are people who have the money that is needed to support the development of a medical device or treatment, but often do not have an intrinsic understanding of the field or work. If I would like to receive funding from an investor, then I have to be able to effectively communicate my idea, provide evidence that it will work, and explain how and why this evidence supports my idea. This requirement of investor collaboration is common in many bioengineering companies, especially those which are startups or are developing a new product. In return for supporting the company, the investors often receive a portion of the revenue generated by the medical device or treatment. Therefore, these investors are only going to be willing to risk their money on devices or treatments which they have a thorough understanding of; they will not blindly support a product without knowing how it works, why it works, and the chance of it working. This necessity of research communication for gaining funding is just one reason why it is so important for all researchers to continue to work on improving their ability to communicate, especially to a general audience.  

Thickness map of a pediatric valve leaflet generated using MATLAB.

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