Doing Science: Design, Analysis, and Communication of Scientific Research

By Ivan Valiela | Go to book overview

7
Other Means of Scientific
Communication

7.1 The Scientific Talk

We have used our best scientific intuition to discern the important question, we have designed the best possible way to test the question, we have used innovative ways to do the needed measurements, and we have excellent data; at some point in our scientific lives we will surely have to give the dreaded oral presentation. The first point to make about talks is that even experienced speakers have some apprehension at the prospect. The second point is that giving talks is theater.

A lecture is a tour de force and a good and conscientious lecturer is both nervous beforehand and prostrate afterwards.

Lawrence Bragg

What makes for successful theater? A good story line, for starters. Merely presenting a miscellany of results, even outstanding results, seldom captures an audience's imagination or interest. A captivating scientific story shows relationships among the parts of our results, as well as between current knowledge and the new results, and conveys how the new information advances our insights and affects future work. By and large, the outline of a talk is often much like our by now familiar scientific paper—introduction, methods, results, discussion—but requires some modification to allow for oral presentation.

Successful theater also requires actors who convey the story to the audience in an accessible, convincing way. A speaker-actor who knows the audience, manages to keep their attention, and leads them through the talk will more successfully communicate the importance of the results. Speakers need to have a clear idea of what the audience is likely to already know about the subject in general, because the level of expertise of the audience determines what the introductory material will be, what information is provided in each part of the talk, how much jargon can be used, and exactly what details in the logical sequence need to be included or can be omitted.

Telling a story implies a relationship between narrator and audience. An experienced narrator learns to craft the telling explicitly to the audience that is present. For example, the results of a study of the relationship between cutting of tropical rainforests and release of gases that promote atmospheric warming might be told to an audience of specialists with Ph. D.s, to a group of administrators and politicians, to a lay audience, and to a group of elementary school students. In each case, the lan

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Doing Science: Design, Analysis, and Communication of Scientific Research
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Doing Science 1
  • 1 - Obtaining Scientific Information 3
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 2 - Elements of Scientific Data and Tests of Questions 29
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 3 - Statistical Analyses 49
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 4 - Principles of Research Design 79
  • Sources and Further Reading 97
  • 5 - Communication of Scientific Information: Writing 99
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 6 - Communicating Scientific Information: the Scientific Paper 127
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 7 - Other Means of Scientific Communication 147
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 8 - Presenting Data in Tables 171
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 9 - Presenting Data in Figures 183
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • 10 - Case Studies of Graphical Data Presentation 219
  • 11 - Perceptions and Criticisms of Science 255
  • Sources and Further Reading *
  • Index 285
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