We’ve written before about the importance of scientists communicating more effectively – both to the public and with one another. In a column in The Scientist, David Rubenson, associate director for administration and strategic planning at the Stanford Cancer Institute, shares his thoughts on the matter, lamenting the fact that (for example) “typical biomedical research presentation has become a dizzying whirlwind of incomprehensible slides, presented at lightening speed and labeled with unreadable font sizes and abbreviations known only to the speaker.” He elaborates:
…For good, and often for bad, the slide presentation has become the most ubiquitous mode of scientific communication. Misuse of easy-to-use presentation software packages, like Microsoft PowerPoint, has eroded transparency. There is no longer a need to focus on the most important conclusions and the relevant supporting data. Today it is too easy to bring dozens, even hundreds, of slides that show every bit of data a laboratory has generated. It is not uncommon for individual slides to contain six or eight unreadable graphs. Quantity has replaced discretion.
Rubenson, who teaches a class on presentation techniques at the medical school, gives other examples of what he labels a communication crisis in research, and he calls for a shift in “a frenetic culture that overvalues the quantity of activities over purposeful scientific interchange.”
Previously: Challenging scientists to better communicate their ideas to the public, Want to become a better science communicator? Try explaining science to a child and A conversation about the importance of conveying complex scientific concepts to broad audiences