PhD students also have an obligation to communicate

Research communication must not be ignored, nor viewed as an irritating chore. PhD Day at Health on 24 January is set to open up the issue of scientific communication for discussion under the banner of: ‘Scientific communication - science/science fiction’

PhD Day at Health on 24 January is set to open up the issue of scientific communication for discussion. FOTO: AU Kommunikation.

For many researchers – newly started as well as more experienced – the prospect of being interviewed by a journalist can cause both sweaty palms and a rise in natural scepticism. With good reason, we might add.

The communication of research to the media often takes place in a framework where neither sufficient airtime nor sufficient column inches have been set aside to present the topic appropriately. For this reason, simply ignoring the situation can appear to be a very attractive option. This is a poor strategy, however, according to Lise Wogensen, Vice-Dean for Talent, and Head of the Graduate School at Health.

“If we want society and the general public to become involved in research, we must be able to communicate it in a straightforward manner. Of course, this should not be taken to mean that all researchers must be forced to communicate everything all the time. But if you obtain results that are important to communicate, you must have the skills to do so properly. And if you need help, then you should naturally receive it,” she says, laying out the background for the theme for PhD Day on 24 January.

At this event, presentations and the panel discussion will be centred on the topic of scientific communication. The title of ‘Scientific communication - science/science fiction’ has been chosen to illustrate the challenge that researchers sometimes face when asked to explain their research to the media.  It is important to have this discussion with the PhD students, because it is not too early to hone your communication skills while you are still following your research study programme.

“The world of science should not be represented exclusively by experienced senior researchers – there should also be room for the young, talented group. We have a lot of skilled young researchers who are working on projects and generating results that it is relevant to talk about. They need to make it past the hump,” says Lise Wogensen.

Get past the hump
Lise Wogensen has no problem imagining that some researchers may be holding back due to worries about appearing amateurish or – even worse – dishonest.

“Of course, you have to have backing for what you say. It is a question of preparing thoroughly before talking to journalists. And this preparation should encompass not only what you want to say, but also the journalist’s working conditions and target group,” adds Lise Wogensen.

Should there be any life left in the old myth that you can either be a skilled researcher or a skilled communicator, Lise is keen to stamp it out.

“My point is that if you are professionally talented and possess significant knowledge, you should not hold back through fear that your colleagues in the world of research may have a negative opinion about what you are communicating,” she emphasises.

The panel of speakers at PhD Day have therefore been chosen on the basis of a desire to inspire, provoke and involve. Lise Wogensen explains:

“What drives a researcher is the desire to make a difference. When you can see that your research is of importance to people outside the world of research, then you should tell them about it. The general public who help to fund the research should see that their money is being well spent.”


Speakers at PhD Day
The keynote speakers at the event will be: Peter Lund Madsen, doctor, brain researcher, author and studio host, Mette Davidsen-Nielsen, Managing Director of the newspaper Information, Lars Østergaard, Professor at Aarhus University, and Professor Leiv Sydnes from Oslo.

The title chosen for the day – ‘Scientific communication - science/science fiction – is intended to illustrate the challenge many researchers face when asked to communicate their results in the media.

Additional information

Vice-Dean Lise Wogensen
Aarhus University, Health
Direct tel. +45 25 48 85 22