"If you can't explain it, you don't know it."

 “I sat through the science presentations at last year’s Graduate Studies Day,” says Dr. Donna Giberson. “I consider myself to be pretty up on most biological topics, but even the Biology presentations flew right over my head. And these were supposed to be for a general audience.”

Giberson is a Professor of Biology and NSERC Rep for UPEI. She and Dr. Brian Wagner, Assistant Vice President of Graduate Studies have organized an afternoon called “You’re Not Dumbing it Down: Making Your Research Accessible” on Friday, December 3, from 1:30 to 3:30 pm in Room 104 of the KC Irving Chemistry Centre.

“This is a real problem. Some of the students were making no effort to make their research understandable. I believe it is incumbent on the researchers to make themselves understood. That’s what we’ll be discussing this Friday.”

Friday’s session includes presentations from Dr. Mary Anne White, Research Professor of Chemistry and Physics at Dalhousie University, and a regular contributor to the Maritime Noon Phone-In on CBC Radio; Karen Birchard, Canada Correspondent for the Chronicle of Higher Education; and Jason Frenette, Research Partnership Promotion Officer with NSERC Atlantic.

“I think this is something that will appeal to anyone interested in communicating their research,” says Giberson. “This is not just a science issue. Every discipline has its own languageand that’s useful for communicating with colleagues. But we can’t assume the public knows our language and terms. It’s not dumbing anything down to speak clearly. If you can’t explain it, you don’t know it.”

Giberson says the ability for a researcher to communicate is crucial for connecting with funders, and to gain political and public support for their research.

“If you have a funding partner who doesn’t care that you can’t explain your work, congratulations,” says Giberson. “But that’s pretty rare. Most partners want us to be able to show the public what we’re doing. The goal is not to blow your horn, but to get the public interested in research. I think we can all agree that’s valuable.”