Oral Communication In Science: BIG Challenge For New PIs

“Nobody said it was easy”, the famous song called “The Scientist” from the British group Coldplay, says it all. Becoming a scientist is not easy. It not only takes a great amount of scientific knowledge and motivation, but it also takes a great set of management, communication and teaching skills. This is a BIG challenge for new PIs.
When it comes to teaching graduate students or presenting in front of the scientific community, many scientists experience fear. The reason for this is simple: during their PhD and postdoctoral trainings, scientists are usually trained exclusively in a specific scientific field per se but not in communicating their ideas. Therefore, future independent scientists receive minimal training in terms of growth as communicators and educators for their faculty development. This is quite surprising, considering that scientists serve as the “primary teachers” for graduate students and postdocs. In addition to maintaining active research laboratories, one of the major roles of scientists is to be able to transmit their knowledge. This includes sharing knowledge with the scientific community through scientific journals and conferences, but also on a daily basis in either the lab or in class. Thus, how can scientists become more confident in communicating their knowledge?
There are several key concepts that all scientists should be aware of when communicating their knowledge. These concepts can include the following:  develop better ways to structure the talks (conferences) or courses (teaching), create new teaching methods that would help raising the interest of the audience, and know the audience in terms of background and knowledge. Of interest, some research institutions currently provide continued professional development courses in communication. The goal of those courses is to produce scientists that are not only good in science but also at communicating their science.
Look it up in your own research institution! Most likely, there are classes offered by the Institute of Medical Education or similar departments at your institution that can help you overcome your potential fear of efficiently communicating your scientific knowledge.
Developing aptitudes in oral communication is only one of the many challenges new PIs must face. Attend the Early Career sessions on November 16 to learn more about the keys to Early Career Academic Success.
I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. My research particularly focuses on the crosstalk between the functional properties of lymphatic vessels and atherosclerotic disease, and how these interactions might affect disease progression or regression. In 2014, I will be back in Canada, to pursue my career as an independent scientist at the Montreal Heart Institute. I am also member of the ATVB Early Career Committee.

Posted by Catherine MARTEL on Nov 11, 2013 5:46 PM America/Chicago