Posted by Josie Galbraith @Josie_Anya
Something all scientists share is an inherent understanding that science is a worthy pursuit. That knowledge, like pie, is worth seeking. We are prepared to read paper after paper – countless paragraphs of text – for the betterment of our understanding. But even amongst ourselves, we usually draw the line at reading literature outside our fields of interest. And fair call – ain’t nobody got time for that. Papers outside our broad disciplines may as well be written by aliens. Alien subject matter, alien concepts, alien terminology. Crossing the disciplinary event-horizon doesn’t exactly make for easy digestion or light bedtime reading.
We all want sweet juicy visual treats.
What we all want, what we really really want, is for someone to hand us delicious bite-sized science in shiny wrappers. Sweet juicy visual treats, like graphical abstracts, infographics and animations (check out this sweet as bird feeding animation – yeah you got me… it’s mine). Data visualization and visual storytelling aren’t new concepts, but in this digital age they have become more important than ever. Increasingly, journals across the spectrum are recommending or even requiring visual summaries of research. Visual representations of research are many more times effective at engagement than legions of characters lined up on a page (there’s a graphic of that). Do not underestimate the power of the drawn lines.
What’s more, this kind of science is also perfect to share with all manner of non-sciencey folks. Science communication is, after all, a hugely important part of science and part of our responsibility as scientists (scidev.net editorial, Brownell et al. 2013 ). Not all of us are comfortable giving interviews via conventional channels (TV, radio, articles). Furthermore, mainstream media have a tendency to cover only those articles that are sexy, sensational, or published in the top journals. But, with the age of social media, opportunities for communicating science to the world in graphical ways have skyrocketed and we can do it ourselves. We don’t have to wait to be asked. Make the most of it. Turn your fancy words into shiny pictures, because pictures are great. Great for society and great for our own science.
Don’t wait to be asked.
Turn your science into a shiny picture today!
It is a vastly useful academic exercise to distill your research down into a single picture or a 60-sec animation. What is it that really matters about your study? What are the vital pieces? And these days we need to do more distilling. While opportunities to communicate science are increasing, attention spans are shrinking. Sharing scientific findings graphically is the perfect answer.
A final comment: don’t let artistic skill or lack thereof stand in your way. Graphics software is pretty awesome these days (your institution may already have a license for Adobe Illustrator, or there are many free apps too). Failing that there are people out there to help you with the research make-over you’re looking for (shout out to deSciphered and maybe future me).
Josie Galbraith is a PhD student in the Centre of Biodiversity and Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. She is supervised by Margaret Stanley, Jacqueline Beggs and Daryl Jones (Griffith University, Australia). She is also known to dabble in the dark arts – painting, illustration, graphic design, and animation.
Science in wrappers image © Josie Galbraith. This image includes vectors designed by zhaolifang and larvarmsg Vecteezy.com.