[The Proposition] ‘Experts are often not the best communicators for topics within their expertise’

PhD candidates explain their most thought-provoking proposition. This time Annika Mangold-Döring.

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PhD candidates explain the most thought-provoking proposition in their thesis. This time it’s Annika Mangold-Döring, who received her PhD on 13 November. Her study was about modelling the effect of temperature and chemicals at different levels of biological organization.

‘People often assume that experts, being the most knowledgeable in their field, should also be the best at communicating their research topics. But in my opinion, experts are often too disconnected from their audience. An expert can easily become absorbed in every detail of the subject; in the end this is what makes them the expert. And as their daily communication about their topic is mainly with other experts in their field, they tend to forget not everyone has the same level of knowledge as they do, and neither is everyone interested in the same level of detail as they are.
Although science communication is crucial for society, the reality is that researchers are currently not properly trained to communicate their findings to the general public effectively. This impedes knowledge transfer and threatens trust in science and scientists.
During the monthly meetings of the Science Communication Interest Group ‑ we currently have 323 members ‑ one piece of advice for effective science communication that is frequently shared is to know and connect with your audience. And to add my personal advice: I suggest doing so by reconnecting to your past self from say five years ago, or whenever you started to get interested in your topic. Think about the level of knowledge you had back then and try to remember what you were most curious about before you knew all the details you know today.’

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