Open the Box.com
Open the Box.com
It’s not much fun communicating science these days, is it? Why is that? Well, it seems that opinion counts more than facts, or does it?
Joan C., a gerontologist at a seniors’ residence, was let go because she refused to be vaccinated against the flu. Seniors are
particularly susceptible, and therefore benefit from herd immunity. Joan’s reason? She was afraid of thimerosal, an
antifungal preservative derived from mercury, used to prevent contamination in some vaccines where the vial is used for multiple patients. To her, mercury is a poison. Period. But a vaccine containing 0.01% thimerosal contains 50 micrograms of thimerosal per 0.5 mL dose, or ~25 micrograms of mercury per 0.5 mL dose. In other words, about the same amount of elemental mercury as in a 3 oz can of tuna—which she would probably consider harmless. The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine suffers from a similar type of vaccine hesitancy. Some people believe it causes autism. Although the myth has been disproven, it refuses to die thanks to websites, social media, and celebrities who are unqualified to speak. As a result, preventable measles outbreaks are becoming more frequent, and the flu kills ~3,500 Canadians/year.
Opinion and emotion dominate evidence are also common in agricultural technology (eg: gene editing, glyphosate), climate change, and food (eg: gluten, fad diets). General science is not immune either (eg: flat Earth, moon landing conspiracy, placenta-eating, homeopathy). How can science communication prevail in the face of misinformation, mistrust, cognitive bias, celebrity culture and other barriers?
As a member of a science-based professional community, you probably communicate with stakeholders who are already on-side with your work as well as other audiences such as the public, patients, parents, consumers and industry. These days, every
subject seems to be a target for polarisation—from climate change, agricultural technology (eg: gene editing, glyphosate), food (eg: gluten, fad diets) and health (eg: vaccines, placenta-eating, homeopathy) to general science (eg: flat Earth, moon landing conspiracy). How can science communication get past the misinformation, mistrust, cognitive bias, celebrity culture and other barriers?
Using examples ripped from the headlines, this one-day workshop (delivered in three parts) provides practical learning on the rise of misinformation in science, what makes people vulnerable to it, and concepts and strategies to develop more effective messaging. Participants will analyze situations and discuss potential counter-balancing solutions through exercises, case studies, discussions and critical analysis that help bring the learning to life and into the workplace.
Sylviane Duval grew the science communications business she launched in 2003 into a consultancy (OpenTheBox Ltd) focusing on knowledge transfer, research navigation, and business/soft-skills training for scientists. Working with clients in a wide range of sectors gives her a first-hand opportunity to observe many polarized discussions, understand the basis for entrenched beliefs and contribute ideas to balanced solutions so that users can make informed decisions. Sylviane is a Co-founder of the Institute for Knowledge Mobilization and a member of Evidence for Democracy’s Network of Experts. She has been a member of national and international boards supporting the ethical and accessible communication of science, and a national advisory committee promoting the protection of intellectual property. She holds a Secret clearance from the Government of Canada.
Clear and confident communication is incredibly important for the scientists in our network, whether they are discussing their research with fellow scientists or being interviewed by prospective employers. Sylviane Duval's workshops provided strategies for concise, impactful writing and poised presentations. She is an organized and knowledgeable presenter, and was very flexible in helping our organization meet its training goals.
Ryan Snitynsky, GlycoNet
Sylviane’s workshop on plain language communications demonstrated how important it is to use the correct language to communicate ideas and research results to the general public. She effectively conveyed the principles on how to do it, and presented well developed examples to demonstrate them. The workshop included a series of critical analyses of published material, and exercises on how to turn complicated text into clear messages. Sylviane is extremely knowledgeable and was able to communicate content effectively and clearly.
I was fortunate to attend Tamika Heiden’s 2 day masterclass for Securing Successful Research Funding and Grants Applications in February 2018. It was quickly obvious that Tamika is passionate about impact for research, and for people to achieve and be successful. She presented the information clearly and with experience. She was able to communicate relevance to all people in the room regardless of their experience and reason for attending. I left the masterclass feeling very well equipped to take the steps needed to improve my future applications. If you have the opportunity to attend Tamika’s masterclass, you should go as I am sure you will get a lot from it both professionally and personally.