09 Apr Escape from the Ivory Tower of Water Science
Ana Paulina López (ESR2)
Have you ever struggled to share your ideas clearly with different audiences?
This is one of the challenges that we face as ESRs along the PhD pathway. Clear communication allows us to share ideas, findings, awareness, and so on. However, it takes time to develop speech and writing skills. Throughout my project, I can strengthen my communication at events such as conferences and seminars. As these occur in a scientific environment, you can think that communication flows naturally. Surprisingly, I learnt that even a poster design might play a key role in attracting an audience and thus transmitting the message efficiently to scientists of different fields of expertise. This is important because tackling water pollution requires multidisciplinary research. Conveniently, tips to design posters and presentations are promoted in conferences via workshops; thanks to this, all attendees can practice avoiding saturated and boring slides and posters. I hope to wake up my dormant designer throughout my PhD project!
A bridge for science
Scientific knowledge often includes technical and complex terminology, and wastewater treatment of organic micropollutants is not the exception. This is one reason why the information may remain in the scientific niche and out of policymakers’ or society’s reach. As Danilo mentioned in his article, the technologies that we investigate at Nowelties may face a lack of legislation favoring their implementation. There is an increasing need for training scientists to work with diplomats in the Science Diplomacy interface to ease the translation of scientific knowledge into legislation. In the case of water legislation, water scientists struggle for successful communication with diplomats and the inclusion of social and cultural concerns in the intended legislations1. While this field is in development, it opens further possibilities for ESR to become a bridge between scientific and legislative communities.
Let’s go out of our tower
As Silvana and Camilo mention in their blogs, water is linked to diverse society problematics. Despite the elaboration of water legislations to solve some of those difficulties, successful implementation requires time and society’s participation. As water researchers, we can facilitate this step by going out of our “Scientific Ivory Tower” and sharing the ongoing research with the public. Like other EUH2020 projects, Nowelties encourages all ESRs to engage with the community via outreach activities, such as the current online blog. Nevertheless, I discovered that explaining science in simple terms and easy flow is not that easy. Creativity and empathy are some of the main ingredients for me in science communication. Because pictures are a good support to transmit our ideas efficiently, I dare to plunge into the digital ocean of images, find a matching one or make my own creation thanks to editing tools. While elaborating my image and writing the text body, I imagine that I did not know the science and let my inner child help with some ideas, which hopefully works. Besides, I try to be in other’s shoes and to avoid complex language. My friends and relatives used to say that I pronounced tongue twisters when explaining my thesis and naming long names of compounds or enzymes such as Glutathione-S-transferase, but now they do not because I go back to general concepts. Analogies are handy too.
Apart from outreach activities, Nowelties promotes that we disseminate our research results via open access publications, which means that no membership or fee is required to read the published articles. This approach boosts science transparency and availability to anyone interested in the topic of water treatment and micropollutants. You will never know who reads you! Naturally, open access benefits other water experts to compare and/or integrate our findings in their future or ongoing water treatment projects.
1. “Water Diplomacy: Intersection of Diplomacy and Science. “ S4D4C European Science Diplomacy meeting (15-19.3.2021). Online (https://www.s4d4c.eu/s4d4c-final-meeting-17-march/)