Fortunately, I have had a multitude of heroes in my life—scientists, engineers, journalists, and fellow public information officers (PIOs). I have admired them as dedicated professionals, learned from them, and enjoyed their warm friendship. And I have deeply enjoyed writing about scientists' and engineers' discoveries, conveying those discoveries to journalists, and collaborating with my fellow PIOs.
However, throughout this gratifying career I have been acutely aware of a critical knowledge gap that I believe greatly hinders research communication. Scientists and engineers are seldom given the communication tools and techniques they need to explain their hard-won discoveries to audiences beyond their peers. And they generally do not understand journalists and PIOs well enough to work effectively with those professionals.
This guide aims to remedy that critical lack of knowledge. It distills nearly four decades of my experience as a PIO, during which I explored countless laboratories, interviewed a myriad of scientists, and prepared thousands of news releases, feature articles, Web sites, and multimedia packages.
This book aims to help you as a practicing researcher master all the tools and techniques for explaining your research—from giving compelling talks to persuading donors and administrators of the wisdom of supporting your work. Also, it aims to help you understand the journalists important to explaining your research to both lay and professional audiences. It explains the influences on their professional function and how you can work with them most effectively. In addition, a special online section at ExplainingResearch.com offers a guide to working with PIOs, your invaluable allies in communication. Their skills for explaining your work and reaching important audiences benefit you enormously and are invaluable to your institution.
And importantly, Explaining Research will show how the same tools and techniques for reaching lay audiences can greatly improve your professional communications with your colleagues.
The tools and techniques in this book can also help PIOs explain their institution's research to its many important audiences. I owe my colleagues a huge debt. I have benefited enormously from their wisdom and experience, and Explaining Research contains many of their ideas. Students of journalism, science, engineering, and medicine will also find this guide helpful. The communication skills it teaches will greatly benefit their future careers.
Finally, I hope this book becomes part of a continuing dialogue about the best ways to explain research to important audiences. I encourage you to explore this Web site and my blog at ResearchExplainer.com.
Although I use the term "research communication" in this book, I titled it Explaining Research for a reason: it covers techniques not just of clearly communicating your research, but also of explaining it to lay audiences that, unlike professional audiences, have no background in your field and are not inherently interested in your research. In explaining your work, you seek to engage and educate those audiences—to benefit your field, your institution, and your own research career.