Science Communication Is The Bridge We Need

Nowadays it’s typical and obvious that conversations create and maintain their existence within “bubbles” or “echo chambers”. The examples are plenty and diverse, across all topics and around the whole world. This is partly a result of the expanding space that allows for more conversations to happen, namely the interconnected world of online web. Never before has it been easier to have a conversation between individuals that reside in different continents, and have the conversation be as fluent and dynamic, in real-time, as if the individuals are all sitting around the same table. And not only is it a matter of technology that facilitates these conversations, it is also the ability to have a large, common, and easily accessible wealth of information to fuel the talks. These factors combine to create a type of communication ecosystem so rich and diverse, that it has inevitably been utilized to support wide-ranging types of microenvironments and subject matters.

New ways facilitate the ability to communicate between individuals interested in ideas, regardless of the actual quality, reason or purpose of these ideas and conversations. It is however not my goal here to debate or argue against some of the prevailing conversations that exist now on the internet. That feels like an issue that requires a different format and a different type of communication than a blogpost in a health and science geared online platform! Instead, my goal today is to spotlight and encourage more of the type of rich communication possible, especially by directing my message towards… and you probably guessed this, scientists (and physicians and all other types of academics. Scientists get the headline in this blogpost because… well I’m a scientist myself!).

I believe that in this rich ecosystem of communication possibilities, there needs to be an increased effort by scientists to engage in open discussions with as many individuals as possible. This is counter to what has been the case for the past century, where scientists placed the highest priority into communicating their knowledge, investigative findings and even their questions (with no present answers) to other scientists, in platforms that are extremely inaccessible to the vast majority of the general public. Scientists (and academics in general) almost intentionally sidelined themselves from active participation in what the world was preoccupied with and talking about at any point in time.

To that extent, it is highly encouraging and exciting, to see that in the past few years, attention and valuable effort has been put into the wide-ranging field of Science Communication (#SciComm), by a growing number of young and established scientists, that answered the call of science beyond the walls of the lab, or the research group, university or hospital that houses them.  #SciComm can have many forms, and all of them are totally appropriate, depending on how it is performed, and by whom, and for what purpose. #SciComm can be an addition to the portfolio of an active scientist (student, early-career or even a fully tenured senior investigator). #SciComm can also be an entry-level job by a recent science graduate that has an interest in media and public outreach. #SciComm can also be a lengthy career all on its own, spanning decades (you know who’s basically a #SciCommer: Bill Nye! Also, David Suzuki, and Sir David Attenborough!).

Science communication to the public takes a completely different form, of course, compared to science communication between peers. Academic and medical publications read by their intended communities are perfect examples of “conversation bubbles” and echo chambers. There is no doubt a benefit in having conversations between subject-matter experts. The increased potential of collaboration and the advancement of ideas and innovations has greatly benefited from the ability to communicate within these well-structured communication bubbles. So I would not want this type of discussion to end or be discouraged at all. However, it is increasingly evident that scientists also need to utilize, and take advantage of, the widening communication avenues. Otherwise, the role scientists play in the expanding world will inevitably shrink and become marginalized.

(Collage assembled from pixabay.com images)

New avenues for scientists (and everyone else) exist in all relevant communication styles: If writing is preferred, many blogs/online magazines and newsletters are accessible (or easily created), which can be utilized to “translate” knowledge that exists in academic and medical publications, and allow far easier accessibility for the public. A word of caution here is warranted though: it is important to learn about the content provider (publisher), and vet the content on that platform, to know for sure the value and accuracy that is present there. As scientists, we must value our own output, and make sure it gets sorted into a worthwhile content provider/publisher, and never in a “predatory” or compromised communication form. We should not lend credibility to something that fosters false or biased or unproductive content.

Moving on, when audio style communication is desirable, then podcasts are the modern-day addition to the “radio” format of science communication. And finally, if video is the go-to communication medium, then YouTube is there for everyone. And just like with my words of caution regarding writing and content disseminating new avenues, one must be careful about Podcast and YouTube channels that one is thinking of contributing to; great options exist and are highly recommended, but there also exists a large number of channels and content distributors that would do more harm than benefit to the overall science and general public. Today I’m not going to tackle the world of Social Media here (Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc), but know that these also count towards #SciComm (and probably could be the most dominant force of communication moving forward). That’s a future topic to write about!

So, as a scientist, an early career professional, and an enthusiastic communicator of knowledge, to as a wide an audience as I can reach, I’ll continue to encourage, support and amplify the desire for more science communication, and utilization of the expanding avenues available for everyone. Because when science is available for all, the world can tackle more challenges, and everyone can benefit.


“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”


A Common Problem Among Scientists: Not Being the Best Presenters – Lesson One

With many conferences, symposiums and seminars always lined up throughout the year, a common shortcoming in scientists’ lives is the fear of public speaking and, consequently, a poor presentation.

As a public speaking coach and presentation skills teacher who happens to be a scientist too, I cannot emphasize how much of difference it can make when you present your data (most of the time, complicated data!) clearly and effectively. Presentations skills and public speaking skills are very useful in many aspects of work and life. Effective presentations and public speaking skills are important in business, sales and selling, training, teaching, lecturing, and generally feeling comfortable speaking to a group of people. Let’s not forget that having the confidence and capability to give good presentations and to stand up in front of an audience are extremely helpful competencies for self-development and social situations.

In a series of blog posts, my goal will be to discuss some details of how you can improve your scientific presentations and the key points that can help your presentation to stand out. Throughout the upcoming blog posts, the focus will be on the delivery aspects of the talk and visuals (slides).

Whenever I am starting a new presentation skills class, I always bring up what William Yeats, one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature, said years ago:

“I always think great speakers convince us not by force of reasoning but because they are visibly enjoying the beliefs they want us to accept.” – William Yeats

This brings us up to the first rule, which happens to be the most common presentation problem:

Not Being Boring – The Opening

It is a common bias to feel more interested in presentations when the speaker is passionate and excited to share the results. So how can you ensure not to be boring? Here are some tips:


1) Icebreaking Polls

Live polls are a great way to “break the ice” and capture the audience’s attention, especially in bigger crowds. As part of your opening remarks, you can use a fun poll to enliven the atmosphere and also to set the tone for your event (a good live example is what usually Dr. Kiran Musunuru does in his talks).

Here are a few examples that I personally like:

  • How energized are you feeling right now?
  • As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • If age is only a state of mind, what is YOUR state of mind right now?

Remember, funny answer options are also part of the polls.


2) Make a joke at your own expense

Before making a joke, remember to always be sensitive to your crowd. People have different values, beliefs, and experiences.

As it is beautifully mentioned by Public Speaking Powers: “You don’t want to make a joke at the expense of anyone in the audience, a joke at the expense of the company, or a joke at the expense who’s introduced you, but the joke at the expense of yourself tends to work really well because you’re pointing at yourself so people can just laugh along with that.”

For example, you could say: “Look, I have a bad feeling about this. I was talking to [whoever introduced you], and they said they were going to tell a joke before I spoke but instead they just introduced me.” So you’re implying you’re the joke.


3) Ask “raise your hand” questions

My personal favorite is this type of icebreaker. It shows confidence, it boosts up your stage presence and it makes your audience to physically move. When thinking about the question you want to ask, consider the following:

Do not create a negative environment with your question. Never ask questions that may put the audience in the spot. Negative examples include, “How many of you are suffering from dyslipidemia?” or, “Have you ever been into a Cath lab as a patient?”

Instead, ask questions that are more relevant and questions that most people are going to raise their hand to: “How many of you have read the CONSORT trial results?” or, “How many of you read the new hypertension guidelines?”

Keep in mind, the whole idea of the “raise your hand” questions is to get audience’s engagement and group involvement, so the people on the outskirts who aren’t really getting into your talk feel like they should get into your talk.


4) Start a story without finishing it right away

Open up your talk by simple phrases like:  “I want to tell you a story that I think it is very important for my speech today.” Or you go on and tell your story, but you leave the conclusion out and you say: “I’ll get back to that towards the end.”

This allows you to draw people into your talk with stories, but you’re not finishing your story right away so it keeps them engaged.


5) Start by breaking some news

A good way to keep the audience engaged is to talk about a recent news/paper/article that is relevant to your presentation. I was recently in an AHA’s Strategically Focused Research Network meeting about sex differences in aortapathies and the speaker opened up her talk by discussing an article from Times Magazine, which came out on the same day, discussing sex differences.


It can be tricky to know how to start a meeting. In fact, the introduction is often the hardest part to get right. But with a great start, you can relax yourself and your audience, making them more alert and receptive. In the next upcoming blog post, I will discuss the problems throughout the delivery and body of the talk. Stay tuned!