23 March 2023
Photo: Björn von Schlippe
In her project VerVis (“Versorgungsforschung visualisieren”), Professor Laura Inhestern worked with an illustrator to depict her research on health care and rare childhood diseases. The project was financed through the Hamburg Research Academy support fund for research communication.
How did you come up with the idea for this project?
In my research areas, one of the essential pillars is the perspectives of patients and their families. At the same time, a majority of the communication about planning and implementing studies takes place with other researchers. There are no compelling, easy-to-understand depictions of my work to make my research clear to non-scientists. Clever illustrations can lend support to difficult texts and make research easier to understand.
I encountered Graphic Recording at a conference. Science comics are also showing up more in scientific communication. Against this backdrop, I developed the project based on the idea of depicting research on health care services and rare childhood diseases. To do so, I shared ideas with the communications department here at UKE; they have already had some experience with illustration. This is how I recruited the experienced illustrator Björn von Schlippe to my project.
What challenges did you face when translating your research into a visual medium?
To prepare for the first meeting with the illustrator, I tried to systematize and organize the aspects of my work that are especially important. One challenge was identifying the central aspects for illustration. In a meeting with the illustrator, it became clear that my written information was not as comprehensible or unambiguous as I had assumed. This revealed to me the added value of illustrations, which can express in pictures what you want to say and really get to the point.
How did the funding help?
Thanks to the funding from HRA and the Claussen-Simon Foundation, I was able to realize my idea for illustrations. The application process was very quick and easy. If researchers are planning a project on scientific communication, I can really recommend the HRA fund.
How do you want to use the illustrations?
With the funding, we created 2 extensive illustrations that represent individual aspects and areas of my work. I have already put them on the website of my research group. I can also use the individual illustrations. I will use them in various contexts: for presentations, conferences, patient days, or in brochures or informative documents for patients and their families. Thus, I can use the illustrations as recurring elements in addition to using them as visual aids to specific texts. There’s also the option of using the illustrations for individual projects or findings. This is great because I assume that in the future, visually presenting research will play a large role such that it is understandable to people outside the field.