From scientific writing to writing about science


#1

How can scientists better translate their work/research into a form accessible for lay audiences? Some of you who have made the transition from the lab bench to the newsdesk - what have you found are the major differences in the two styles of writing and do you have any advice to share?


#2

The biggest difference I found is that one has really think about which details are important and which ones are not-so-important while writing. When it is your own work, it is hard to disconnect and realise that it is ok not to mention all the weird and quirky things your cells did! Also, writing without the jargon makes you think harder about the ‘big picture’ and impact of a study.


#3

I agree with Surat - deciding what the crux of a story is, and then choosing which details would be most and least relevant for the readers to understand that story, is what takes most getting used to.It also takes some time to switch from the standard background/introduction–>mat/met–>result–>discussion format to a different, more engaging flow.


#4

I would like to add to the great points mentioned here by Surat and Shreya. When I started writing, it really helped when I tried to imagine how I would explain this particular research, to a person with basic education but not a scientist, say to my mother. What are the questions she would ask? Do I need to provide an analogy? or is the field related to a well known scientist or company? This train of thought, would lead me to piece the story line.
In my limited experience as a freelancer, I struggle to strike the balance between being general, and the specific aspects that definitely need to be mentioned. And in case of writing about a research which has already been covered by several other websites, I would rather write it as a feature article, giving some historical context and writing it as a timeline, to show how the particular work has evolved.


#5

I agree with Divya about the story-telling mode of writing about scientific findings. An article which charts the trajectory of a discovery makes it much more interesting than just stating the final discovery.


#6

Agreed with both Surat and Divya. It also helps to think of the story being not just about the science, but about the scientists as well. Keeping the human angle in place makes for a much more engaging story than just stating the facts, no matter how interesting those are.


#7

Yes, the human angle is definitely more engaging and makes even abstract science concepts relatable. I would like to share an article from The Hindu, in which the way the scientific work is written, is quite inspiring (https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/the-interpretation-of-a-malady/article18036022.ece). I felt, the author succeeded in bringing out the importance of the research work and also highlighted the role of the main scientists, apart from creating an awareness about rare genetic diseases.


#8

Thanks for the share Divya! Nice example of great writing.