The importance (and fun) of sharing your discoveries with the public
The summer brings to many faculty a respite from teaching responsibilities and an opportunity to focus on writing and submitting manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed professional journals. Dissemination of your work through these conventional, professional channels is very important. But equally important is getting the next generation of researchers excited about science. One way to do that is by communicating your discoveries to the general public.
You might consider first sharing with a general audience in the local community to practice how to communicate your research in a way that is engaging and clear to a variety of age and education levels. For example, consider participating in a Free State Festival Researcher Speed Dating event. For 12 minutes a group of interested adults asks you a series of questions about how and why you got involved in your research, who the most interesting figures in your field are, etc., with plenty of time and opportunity to “go off script” and just share your enthusiasm for your work.
If you enjoy interacting with children as well as adults, you might consider KU’s Day of Creativity or a growing event in the Lawrence community, the ConfabuLarryum. Both events have a variety of presentation formats, including short talks and all-day booths for demonstrations, etc., that could be used to interact with the public.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of presenting your work to a general audience, you might consider going to Kansas City and doing a talk at TEDxKC, like the recent one featuring theCommunity Tool Box or submitting an article to a science-oriented magazine like Discover orScientific American.
The Communications team in LSI can also help you prepare a news release to attract a broader audience to your research via conventional press and other media such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. You can also learn more about scientific outreach by attending a half-day workshop in the fall sponsored by the KU chapter of Sigma Xi, SHOW: Your Research (Sharing through Outreach Workshop).
In addition to addressing the broader impacts criterion of many federal funding agencies, sharing your work through scientific outreach has other positive side effects. Recently I presented some of my work on auditory illusions at the KU Day of Creativity. One of my demonstrations was a simulation of what speech and music sounded like through a cochlear implant. Attending the event was a young girl and her mother, who actually had a cochlear implant. The demonstration gave the young daughter the opportunity to ask her mother a bit more about growing up hard of hearing and how she experiences life with a cochlear implant. Scientific outreach can increase understanding in many ways!