Science Talk Part 1: Struggles of Scientific Storytelling

August 12, 2019

In 2018, “40 percent of people surveyed globally felt that if science didn’t exist, their lives wouldn’t be any different,” the 3M State of Science index found. The 2019 version of the survey found that “85 percent of those surveyed say they don’t know enough about science, but wish they knew more.”

So, how do we teach people about science? How do we make them perk up and listen to the stories scientists are telling? The 3M Scientists as Storytellers Guide helps break it down.

Scientists find it’s hard to tell their story

Scientists want to get into the details, and sometimes they lose sight of the fact that for non-scientist audiences the important thing is to see the big picture and understand how something affects everyday people.

Scientists struggle with constructing narrative

One good way to tell a story is to create dramatic tension and put a human face on the research. Communicators can help by mapping out the key findings and giving them a narrative arc.

“Science is about curiosity, connecting the dots, and collaboration,” says Emelie Fritz from 3M. Audiences are not monolithic. Their variety of interests, responsibilities, and life experiences should shape the way we tell them stories. In the end, constructing a narrative is most important.

Stay tuned for more tips on science storytelling in part 2 of Science Talk! If you have any questions about science and storytelling, feel free to reach out to the University Relations team at unews@umn.edu.

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