Going into a session titled “The Science of Storytelling and Storytelling in Science” I wasn’t actually sure what I was getting into. I was pleasantly surprised to find I’d have a mix of advice on communicating science, and enjoying a few examples of wonderful stories.
May I begin by saying a HUGE THANK YOU to every speaker who shared their stories with us. After sharing my own story in a small room, I can only imagine how hard it is to speak so personally in front of literally hundreds of strangers. Thank you. I got to hear about how a life with addiction can affect your family. There was a familiar story about being forgotten by a grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Finally the audience heard about the lasting psychological effects of growing up in poverty. These stories were wonderful examples of how to capture an audience.
So how do we share our own stories? I learned we need to rethink our approach. Science communication should not be a way to trick people into learning science. It is about making your narrative interesting and understandable, thereby more believable and persuasive. Liz Neeley described many scientific discoveries as “wonderful stories that are locked in cold equations.” It is our job to bring emotion into our “cold” scientific stories to make them appealing to audiences. After all, no one has to listen to your story. Scientific reporter Ed Yong stated “You do not deserve attention…you earn attention.” When sharing our discoveries with the world we need to make sure we create a narrative that will capture audiences. Whenever we write about our work we need to bring to life a story with a beginning, middle, and end that has an up and a down (though not always in that order). After all, science isn’t just about published papers, it is about people who work hard day in and day out; people who struggle, but have too much passion to give up.
Perseverance is a sentiment I can easily relate too. As a graduate student, every day seems like a test of will to finish my degree. Some days I wonder if I’m determined, or just too stubborn to give up. But I find joy when I can share my work with others. I definitely used to hope my outreach would convince someone science matters. After this session, I hope I can connect with them on a human level leave a lasting impression that forces them to think about science as they walk away. I’ll start practicing with these blogs.