Book review: 53 interesting ways to communicate your research

My name is Dr Anne Osterrieder. In my role as Lecturer in Biology and Science Communication at Oxford Brookes University, my time is split between lab-based research on plant cells, and science communication projects.

Half of my time I study the inner workings of plant cells using advanced microscopy methods. My special research interest lies in plant Golgi tethering proteins and their possible roles in Golgi biogenesis, structure and regulation of protein trafficking.

In the remaining time I run science communication training for researchers and students and organise public engagement events. These range from hands-on activities for children to expressing scientific concepts through creative writing and online engagement via social media.

A bucket list is a list of things that you want to do before you die: Travel to Paris; swim with dolphins; see the Northern Lights. But surely I can’t be the only academic with a bucket list of different ways to communicate my research? ‘Conference talk – tick. ‘Scientific paper’ – tick. ‘Tweeting’ – tick. ‘On a stage in a pub’ – tick. ‘On a soapbox in the city centre’ – coming up this summer. ‘Football stadium’ – impossible?!

Therefore I was delighted when my colleague Rhona Sharpe asked me if I wanted to review ’53 interesting ways to communicate your research’, edited by Irenee Daly and Aoife Brophy Haney.

The book has three chapters, each bursting to the rims with ideas for communication within academia and beyond, and advice on general communication techniques.

When I started reading the book, I only made it to the second tip. I then had to stop to show it to my colleagues, who at the time were preparing for a scientific meeting. How do you put together a good poster? Steve Hutchinson recommends telling a simple story instead of showing all your results. Adding your research questions as subtitles grabs your audience’s attention, and you can provide the answers in the text below.  But try and limit yourself to 750 words.

I have been dipping in and out of the book, discovering new tips every time. There is a lot of useful information packed into bite-sized sections. Dealing with peer reviews, developing a great lecture, publishing your research open access, to survival tips for presenting and networking at conferences – do you know how to make a good impression in seven seconds?

Other parts cover public engagement and research communication using podcasts, video or social media. For creating a concise professional profile, Caron King advises to answer the five key questions: ‘What do you do?’ – ‘Why is this important?’ – What are your qualifications and accolades?’ – ‘How did you get to this point in your career?’ and ‘Who are you outside of work?’ To develop a basic social media strategy, Helen Webster suggests exploring different platforms, cross-linking content and keywords, and engaging with your network rather than just posting self-promotion updates.  

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in creative ways to communicate research. I also discovered that it was part of a whole ’53 things’ series, and I bought two more books with ideas for lectures and seminars.

Irenee Daly & Aoife Brophy Haney (eds), 53 interesting ways to communicate your research (Newmarket: The Professional and Higher Partnership, 2014).

Written by Anne Osterrieder.

Posted in Book Review

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