16 November 2020
Photo: Esther Horvath
Never before has there been so much talk about the topic of research communication as in 2020. So this was a good time for our online talk on 12 November. We spoke with professor and successful communicator Antje Boetius about the new public interest in science, good research communication, and the chances this offers for your own career.
Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius is a professor for geomicrobiology at the University of Bremen and director of the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research. She has been speaking enthusiastically to the public about her research for years. But you can’t just do that in your spare time. Since the beginning of her career, she has made communication a regular part of her daily work. And the effort has more than paid off. Many people want to know more about science and research and are inspired by her enthusiasm. Many have smart questions about scientific knowledge—for example, how does it fit into social trends and how does it help us make decisions. In addition to the significance for society, she sees advantages for her own research and career. Being able to get to the heart of key messages in just a few words makes it easier to write grant proposals, scientific presentations, and articles. In addition, communication skills are becoming increasingly important for research projects, so much so that the media skills you list in your CV now offer a real advantage in the application process.
Try, fail, move on
An important key to successful research communication is being passionate about your own subject. Antje Boetius encourages young researchers, in particular, to try out different communication channels before they set their focus. Social media, for example, has the great advantage that you can write freely about research topics and engage in direct exchange with the community. She herself has focused her efforts on analog events such as lectures, panels, and workshops as well as on traditional media including television, newspapers, and radio. She believes that having fun with trying out new things and a certain amount of experiencing failure, getting up, and moving on is part of every channel. Just as you can get caught in a flood of negative criticism on social media, working with journalists or even taking part in debates on talk shows have potential for misunderstanding. In any case, it helps to understand the requirements and methods of the respective medium and to learn from your own mistakes. Antje Boetius, for example, prefers to provide the press with her own clearly written texts and formulations. In this way, she avoids interpretations and cuts being made later by other people.