Lost in translation: Breaking down barriers to effective science communication

Alexa Corker
February 21, 2024
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As scientists, we are trained to talk, write and think in a critical fashion to communicate our experimental results effectively to other scientists. This communication often centers around dense, highly specific jargon that almost acts like a separate language.

But what happens when scientists have to discuss important discoveries with non-scientists?

We often get sweaty, nervous and tend to overexplain and stumble over our specialized jargon. This represents a significant barrier between the scientists carrying out fundamental research and the larger community that directly benefits from these efforts. 

"The goal for students participating in “Lab to Leaders” is to enhance science communication skills. This event is open to students in all colleges and all levels!"

-- Alexa Corker

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Pew Research Center reported that 35% of people had a great deal of trust in scientists. Since the pandemic, public trust in scientists has fallen to 23%. One factor that contributed to this decline is the fact that the public believed scientists were deceitful and secretive with the science surrounding the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, scientists and medical doctors were struggling with HOW to communicate the groundbreaking science clearly, effectively and in a non-alarming manner. In addition, as we grow up, science is often taught as a series of known facts, with little discussion about the scientific process or exposure to how scientists test and refine their hypotheses.

During the pandemic, the general public was thrust into the laboratory and was inundated with constant updates based on newly available data. It’s easy to see why this would concern non-scientists.

Graduate programs all over the U.S. recognized this concern and are now putting an emphasis on effective communication to the public. MUSC is a leader in this area, providing students with effective communication skills, culminating a Digital Badge in Science Communication.

Student-led groups, like SC-PEAR, are also bringing a solution to the table through the popular “Lab to Leaders” event. 

The goal for students participating in “Lab to Leaders” is to enhance science communication skills. This event is open to students in all colleges and all levels! Participants prepare a visual poster on either a disease/scientific issue of interest or have the opportunity to present their own research. The challenge? Summarizing the information effectively, clearly and at a level even your grandmother would understand!

The 4th annual “Lab to Leaders” event will be hosted Friday, April 19th, 2024 in the Bioengineering Lobby. Sign up below and join us in proving that science doesn’t have to be lost in translation!

Sign up link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScZkGStYKnF-UfG6wXelu5M5a5A_CUPOzpgfbkt8PAD6KWRDw/viewform?usp=sf_link