25 July 2018
The Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub’s PhD Affiliate Initiative provides opportunities for post-graduate students and early career researchers to engage with stakeholders and other researchers while developing science and stakeholder engagement skills. Where traditionally the focus for young researchers has tended to be on advancing research skills, the Hub’s initiative aims to provide opportunities for participants to showcase their science to a broader audience, and equip them with appropriate skills to do this effectively.
One of these opportunities was a science communicating workshop, held immediately prior to the Hub’s inaugural science symposium. The workshop, led by the Hub’s communication and knowledge brokering team, explained the value of stakeholder engagement as an opportunity to publicise the importance of our science, and therefore increase its overall value. Some of the key benefits of engaging with stakeholders include:
- improved stakeholder understanding
- higher quality decision making and improved policy for community benefit
- enhanced community trust in the science
- increased opportunities for attracting funding.
An important lesson at the workshop was how to approach the presentation of scientific information to stakeholders. Both the use of language and how our information is structured were two key points we were made aware of.
For instance, there are many terms used within the scientific community that convey a different meaning to the broader community.
Regarding structure, information within the scientific community is traditionally presented in a chronological order, starting with the background information and finishing with the main point of the research. However, this order is at odds with how most people take information in. Stakeholders want to know why they should care about the science, first and foremost, before they invest any time in finding out more about it.
Following these discussions, we put the theory into action, critiquing each other’s science posters and lightning lectures. While talking without prompts or PowerPoint slides was challenging, the constructive feedback from the communication team and other participants was valuable. The exercise resulted in some last minute revisions, both on style and content, that were well received by our audience at the science symposium.
Arguably the most important aspect of the workshop was the opportunity to network with other early career researchers and PhD affiliates. We were also grateful for the opportunity to talk with some of the Hub’s government stakeholders: insights on promoting our science from their perspective were enlightening.
In all, the interactive nature of the workshop provided a greater connection to the community of scientists in the field as well as potential future leaders, and discussions with other participants revealed common ground for future collaboration. Opportunities to see the breadth of research being conducted across the Hub by other early career researchers and hear first-hand about the challenges it presented were invaluable.