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19 July 2018

ERC grantee Johan Rockstrom believes communication is key to research success. In 2009 he won the "Swede of the year" award for science communication. Here he shares some tips and tricks.

Communicating research is vital as the process of presenting it to others in a compelling way helps you sharpen your science. The more I communicate the more ideas I generate about my own science. The communication process enrichens and sharpens my hypotheses. Another reward is to allow the preparation of more competitive proposals and advance your career. For example, if you want to be successful with an ERC grant application you must learn to formulate and present your science in a way that can convince an external peer review - often composed of scientists from different disciplines - of its merits.

Early in your career it may initially feel uncomfortable to force yourself to present your research on a stage or write a blog, or be active in chatrooms, but don’t hesitate to take these opportunities - they are an investment. Becoming an effective communicator won't happen overnight, its hard work and even masochistic but see it as an integral part of being an academic. It's no coincidence that many of the top Nobel laureates for example are also beloved teachers and really good at communicating.


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Johan Rockstrom © J. Lygrell/EAT Food Forum

 

Scientists need to be able to communicate using text, numbers and also visuals. A guiding principle is that for every paper you write, you should create one iconic visual that explains the key finding of the research. Simplicity is key, but Einstein had it right, he said try to simplify without becoming simplistic.

For every paper you write, you should create one iconic visual

Today, communication is also a moving target. There are so many new communication tools, particularly in social media, young scholars today have the advantage of being able to experiment while communicating. I encourage them to be courageous and try new things. You might fail twice but the third time you could succeed in doing things in an entirely new way.