Scientific research can get incredibly complicated, even up to a point where people outside of the direct project may get confused trying to grasp the concepts of a paper. However, being able to present research in a way that is highly digestible to a generalized audience is important too. After all, having more people to understand and care for your work is never a negative!
Explaining my work to people who know nothing about my field can certainly be difficult, but there are many strategies to overcome this. One method I find myself using frequently are analogies, so that people are able to apply what I am researching into a real-life scenario that is easier to grasp. For example, most people may not know what a “scratch wound assay” entails and how it applies on a larger, more macro scale. However, if I explain that this method is mimicking a stab wound or other deep laceration, just at a cellular level, then people will be able to understand the bigger picture a bit more. I’ve found that being able to describe my research in a way that highlights how it applies on a larger scale often helps people understand.
Additionally, I may elect to use different word choices when talking with people not in my field so they have a better understanding. Instead of just saying “I stain the cells for F-Actin,” I would choose to say that I “place a colorful marker on the cells that helps us measure migration,”. The second sentence uses words that aren’t hyper-specific to my field, and instead explains an aspect of my experiments using commonly understood words to get my message across to a broader audience. Word choice, whether it be omitting specific scientific lingo or translating it into layman’s terms, is another important aspect of making sure research can be accessible to more of the general population.
My current goal is to get into medical school and pursue a specialty of orthopedics or sports medicine. As with anyone planning to be a physician, I must be able to communicate ideas to a range of audiences, including children with a limited vocabulary. Although I will be learning and understanding a much more complicated, scientific standpoint of medicine, I will have to be the one to translate it to my patients. I may know every detail of how a fracture happens and then heals itself, but it would not be helpful to explain any cellular processes to a worried mother and her child. If the fracture is particularly complicated, perhaps I will discuss with colleagues in a more detailed way, but I will have to explain any complications in a broader and simpler way to my patient.