Telling Science Stories

Storytelling in business has become an established means of improving communications, learning and facilitating change. However telling stories in science and technology is not so common, at least in my experience, although there seem to be some notable exceptions eg here. This is interesting as one of the fathers of knowledge management, John Polanyi, was of the view that

Scientia is knowledge. It is only in the popular mind that it is equated with facts. That is of course flattering, since facts are incontrovertible. But it is also demeaning, since facts are meaningless. They contain no narrative.

Science, by contrast, is story-telling. This is evident in the way we use our primary scientific instrument, the eye. The eye searches for shapes. It searches for a beginning, a middle, and an end.

So it was interesting to read this view from  Inés Cifuentes of the American Geophysical Union

Scientists are using websites, writing blogs, taking photos, shooting video, talking via podcasts—all to bring the ocean (and the tons of data collected) to students, teachers, fishermen, ocean enthusiasts. We are learning that when we talk as we do with our colleagues, we bore people.

We must become storytellers. What does that mean? Instead of relying on giving out information, we have to use emotions, humor, visuals, anything and all to draw people in, hold their attention, and make them learn. Scientists often miss the cool bits that will hook people—a creature no one has seen before, a glider operated by someone thousands of miles away in a spot humans can’t go, drilling through a thousand meters of Antarctic ice to get your instrument where you want it.

See also here.

It may be that developing this area will allow some progress to be made in overcoming ‘the curse of knowledge‘, a problem that is endemic in many science and technology organisations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: