The influence of storytelling has solidified its place as a prominent tool across journalism, communication, and marketing in recent decades.
Despite its laudable attributes, however, storytelling continues to grapple with certain negative associations, particularly within the context of science and, more specifically, in science communication (Katz 2013).
Notwithstanding the less favorable connotations linked to storytelling, narratives occupy a pivotal role within the domain of science communication.
The art of storytelling proves particularly valuable when attempting to convey complex subjects to individuals who lack the specialized expertise required for in-depth comprehension.
Navigating Compromises in Science Communication
Research indicates that narratives are more comprehensible and engaging to audiences compared to conventional scientific discourse (Green 2006).
Through narratives, even intricate scientific concepts can be distilled and tailored to suit mass communication, thereby enhancing accessibility.
Within our institution of higher learning, collaboration between researchers and communicators flourishes in a range of research, development, and innovation projects. Naturally, divergent viewpoints arise.
Researchers may find themselves making concessions, resulting in messaging that they perceive as somewhat incomplete or potentially distorted. A common concern is that embracing storytelling might compromise their standing as reputable researchers.
Conversely, communication experts adeptly navigate the delicate balance between the chosen communication channel’s style, the overarching tone of the organization, the expectations of researchers, the intricacy of the subject matter, and the demands of the intended audience.
From the communicator’s standpoint, the most formidable challenge in science communication lies in finding a tone that resonates harmoniously with all stakeholders involved in the communication process.
Balancing Storytelling with Fidelity to Truth
Science communication can equally be approachable, inspiring, emotionally resonant, and indelible. Narrative elements introduce a human dimension to rigorous research, rendering it more relatable.
However, it remains imperative to acknowledge that storytelling doesn’t necessarily entail embellishing the truth or fundamentally altering core content.
Rather, it revolves around the skillful packaging of the message.
Pure factual information, devoid of narrative elements, might often struggle to captivate a broad audience unless the information presented is truly groundbreaking.
Harnessing Emotional Connections through Stories
Narratives serve as a conduit, drawing readers into the captivating world of science that might otherwise remain enigmatic.
Concurrently, narratives can spotlight individual researchers, studies, research institutions, and even entire fields of scientific inquiry. Yet, it’s vital to recognize that not every facet of a subject can be condensed into a single message.
Hence, it’s advantageous to explore multiple angles through various publications when disseminating research findings. One publication could cater to an academic audience, while another might adopt a more personalized approach for a broader readership.
In a world increasingly reliant on science to address complex questions, ensuring that science and technology are comprehensible to all is paramount.
This task necessitates not only the presentation of facts and evidence but also the establishment of emotional connections between researchers and their audience (Joubert et al. 2019).
By harmonizing these aspects, science communication can transcend barriers and foster a more profound understanding of our ever-evolving world.
Ala-Kurikka. 2020. Vuorovaikutukseen satsaava tutkimushanke viestii tehokkaammin. Published in 13.2.2020 on the page vastuullinentiede.fi.
Green, M.C. 2006. Narratives and cancer communication. Journal of Communication 56 (1). Oxford University Press. Oxford.
Joubert, M., Davis, L. & Metcalfe, J. 2019. Storytelling: the soul of science communication. Journal of Science Communication 18 (5). SAGE Publications. California.
Katz, Y. 2013. Against storytelling of scientific results. Nature Methods 10 (1045). Springer Nature. Berlin.