Marisa Benjamin, the GI's Research Communications Officer, and Eric Blondeel, Co-Founder of ExVivo Labs, teamed up to design and deliver a Knowledge Translation Workshop for the Concept by Velocity Graduate Student Stream.
Postdoctoral fellows and Master's and PhD students across the University of Waterloo attended the workshop to gain skills in communicating their research to non-expert audiences. This workshop is part of a larger series offered by Concept to help graduate students and postdocs become more entrepreneurial and commercialize their research.
Knowledge translation is critical for turning research into an innovative venture: entrepreneurs need to be able to tell people about what they do in order to get buy-in, whether the audience is a venture capitalist, a client, or a potential partner.
Benjamin uses research communications to share and mobilize the research coming from the GI's ecosystem in a variety of ways, like news, blogs, and podcasts. She and Blondeel worked together to demonstrate how research can be made accessible and can be understood by people who don't have the educational background of the discipline.
Not all aspects of the research need to be included in accessible communications. Benjamin outlined 5 simple considerations as a framework for graduate students and postdocs to help them craft descriptions of their work:
- What’s the most basic element?
- Why should people care?
- Why should they trust this?
- What else does this affect?
- What’s next?
There are standard strategies researchers can use to ensure they can reduce complex language and explain their work at the right, non-expert level. The workshop taught attendees:
- how to identify jargon and determine the right vocabulary alternatives;
- how to organize statements based on what people will care about and remember;
- when to replace sentences with questions;
- and, how to use analogies to explain vital concepts;
Attendees got into groups to figure out how they might come up with an elevator pitch - one or two sentences - to describe their work. Then, the entire group worked together to consider how to improve these elevator pitches, one-by-one.
"It was incredible to see the look of realization on the researcher's faces when the group helped them hone their elevator pitch," says Benjamin, "it was like they were discovering the key to communicating their research with the world".
The Games Institute plans to replicate this workshop for our members in the near future, with more of a focus on communicating academic work to stakeholders who benefit from the research. To get updates, subscribe to our events mailing list.
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