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RESEARCH COMMUNICATION

Learn how to become a good communicator

Are you a PhD candidate? Do you want to improve your communication skills? Science Grand Prix offers you free advice on how to do just this.

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Political scientist Julie Ane Ødegaard Borge at the Bergen final of 2015 Science Grand Prix during the National Science Week in Norway.
RECOMMENDING SCIENCE GRAND PRIX: Former participant Julie Ane Ødegaard Borge encourages more social scientists to join in the Science Grand Prix contest.
Photo:
Øyvind Ganesh Eknes

Every autumn, the National Science Week in Norway (Forskningsdagene) presents Science Grand Prix. In Bergen, there is a local final with ten candidates. The competition is open to PhD candidates, and presentations can be in Norwegian or English. The deadline to enlist in this year's local competition is 12 May.

Thesis became more focused

The last time the Faculty of Social Sciences was represented in the local final, was in 2015 when Julie Ane Ødegaard Borge from the Department of Comparative Politics took part. She strongly recommends others to participate. She also discovered that participation in the contest improved the focus and writing of her PhD dissertation.

"When you participate in Science Grand Prix, you challenge yourself to question what your project is really about. By learning to present a complex message in a four-minute presentation, you need to focus on what is important findings in a way that is understandable to others. It’s a very educational and useful process,” she says before adding:

“Also, it's great fun! After coaching, doing improvised theatre exercises and a joyful time, you were much become part of the group competing.”

Much more than a popularity contest

She believes many social scientists resist what they consider the tabloid nature of the contest.

"It’s not easy to communicate social science research, as we do not always have exact answers or can bring a product we made to the show. However, this is exactly why we should dare to challenge ourselves,” says Ødegaard Borge.

Political editor of regional newspaper Bergens Tidende, Frøy Gudbrandsen, recommends more social scientists to participate. She herself participated in 2011 and found it to be a learning experience to include, both when writing her PhD dissertation and for improving her communication skills. She even wrote an editorial opinion piece (op-ed) about the experience.

"I believe researchers should be better at showing their research. During the PhD education, I didn’t once receive any training in communication, teaching or dissemination activities. A bit strange considering all academics working at universities, spend at least half their working day teaching, she wrote in the op-ed and recommended others to participate:

“Participants get personal coaching by actors to make sure that your four minutes on stage are the best imaginable. What you learn is very easily transferable to a lecture, public speech or, indeed, your thesis.”

The faculty encourages participation

Vice-dean for research at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Annelin Eriksen, urges more PhD candidates to participate in the competition.

"I believe many PhDs can benefit from this experience. Translating your research to a language a broader audience can understand and to do this in four minutes may be unfamiliar and demanding territory, yet important. However, dissemination is part of the social contract we have as researchers,” says Eriksen.

She hopes that as many as possible of the PhD candidates at the faculty make use of the opportunity to sign up for this year's contest before the deadline expires on 12 May.

"This is a terrific offer in communication training that our PhD candidates can benefit from. Also, participation will not "rob" researchers of time from their actual research project. On the contrary, it is something all PhD candidates should do at least once,” says the vice-dean.