Janet Silbernagel: The Calling of the Cranes

Dr. Janet Silbernagel‘s personal and professional worlds collide in China, where cranes begin to stretch her perception of connections across landscapes. Listen below or stream the official podcast!

Listen on iTunes!

Janet Silbernagel is a landscape ecologist with a design background, specializing in landscape conservation strategies, applying landscape ecological theory, scenario modeling, and geospatial analyses.  Silbernagel started her career as a landscape architect with the US. Forest Service before receiving her PhD in Forest Science from Michigan Technological University. Previously, Silbernagel served on the faculty of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University. She has been on the faculty at UW-Madison since 1999, where she directs the Professional Master’s program in Environmental Conservation within the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, designed to train conservation leaders internationally. Through these roles and her research, Dr. Silbernagel travels between the Great Lakes, Europe, and China.

Recently she has worked on scenarios of forest conservation effectiveness in a changing climate (with The Nature Conservancy); citizen engagement and spatial literacy in Great Lakes coastal communities (with NOAA Sea Grant); landscape connectivity of conservation subdivisions (in WI); and studies to understand dynamics of wetland systems for crane conservation in both China and Wisconsin (with the International Crane Foundation).

Etienne Hirsch: The Curious Boy in the Garden/Le garçon curieux dans le jardin

French neurobiologist Etienne Hirsch recollects his use of Claude Bernard’s scientific methodology from boyhood to adulthood in his journey to alleviate Parkinson’s Disease symptoms. Listen below or stream the official podcast!

Listen on iTunes!

Etienne Hirsch is a neurobiologist involved in research on Parkinson’s disease and related disorders. He obtained his PhD in 1988 from the University of Paris VI (Pierre et Marie Curie). He is currently the director of the Insitute for Neurosciences, Cognitive sciences, Neurology and Psychiatry at INSERM and the French alliance for life and health science Aviesan, the associate director of the research center of the Institute of Brain and spinal cord (ICM), head of “Experimental therapeutics of  Parkinson disease” at the ICM at Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris and since November 2015 in charge of the research aspects of French national plan on neurodegenerative disorders . His work is aimed at understanding the cause of neuronal degeneration in Parkinson’s disease and is focused on the role of the glial cells, the inflammatory cytokines and apoptosis but also on the consequences of neuronal degeneration in the circuitries downstream to the lesions. He is member of several advisory boards including, French Society for Neuroscience (past-President), Scientific Advisory board at INSERM. He obtained several prizes including Tourette Syndrome Association Award in1986, Young researcher Award, European Society for Neurochemistry in 1990, Grand Prix de l’Académie de Sciences, Prix de la Fondation pour la recherche biomédicale « Prix François Lhermitte » in 1999, Chevalier de l’ordre des palmes académiques in 2009, Prix Raymond et Aimée Mande of the French National academy of Medicine in 2011, Member of the French National Academy of Pharmacy in 2011. He is author of more than 200 peer reviewed articles.

Virginia Dale: The Model of a Question

Dr. Virginia Dale realizes that the value of a question lies equally in the asking as well as the answering, while on a trip to the rainforest to conduct ecological models on land-use change. Listen below or stream the official podcast!

Listen on iTunes!

Virginia H. Dale, PhD is a mathematical ecologist who uses a landscape perspective to understand patterns and processes. Her research interests include environmental decision making, forest succession, effects of climate change, land-use change, landscape ecology, ecological modeling, and sustainability of bioenergy systems.  She is a Corporate Fellow in theEnvironmental Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee and was selected as the 2006 Distinguished Scientist for the Laboratory, where she is currently Director of the Center for BioEnergy Sustainability.  She was among the members of the science community that contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Scientific Assessment that in 2007 received the Nobel Peace Prize. Virginia completed her PhD at the University Washington just in time to be able to join the first group on ecologists entering the “Red Zone” after the eruption of Mount St. Helens. She continues to monitor vegetation reestablishment on permanent plots she established there more than three decades ago. She often refers to herself as a disturbance ecologist, for she studies natural and human changes on many landscapes. Virginia has enjoyed sharing her expertise by service on national scientific advisory boards for five federal agencies (the Environmental Protection Agency and US Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Interior) and on several committees of the US National Research Council. For thirteen years, Virginia was Editor-in-Chief of the journal Environmental Management and still serves on the editorial board of several journals. Virginia has been active in her community as a scout leader, soccer coach, and protecting ecosystem services and was selected as a Top Citizen of Oak Ridge. Her son is an aerospace engineer, and her daughter works on environmental policy and is mother to a vivacious girl and has a second child due in July.  Virginia enjoys traveling to visit family and to explore new areas and swims wherever the water is warm.

Michael Feuerstein: It’s in Your Brain

After being diagnosed with a brain tumor, Dr. Michael Feuerstein learns that surviving and thriving post-cancer requires more than medical treatments.  Listen below or stream the official podcast!

Listen on iTunes!

Michael FeuersteinPhD, MPH, is professor of medical and clinical psychology and public health and biometrics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.  After his recovery from a life-threatening brain tumor he has devoted his life’s work to improving the quality of health care survivors receive through research and by disseminating scientifically informed knowledge  to health care providers and cancer patients following treatment.

Dr. Feuerstein has published a book for Cancer Survivors and their families and has edited three textbooks for diverse health care providers on the challenges experienced by these patients. In 2007, he launched a peer- reviewed multidisciplinary journal, the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, whose mission is to improve evidence- based health care in those living with a unique history of cancer and cancer treatment. He lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland with his wife Michele. They have 3 grown children (Sara, Andrew, Erica) and 3 grandchildren (Kiran, Maya, Zain).

Is there anybody out there?

Researchers are under increasing pressure to communicate the results of their endeavours more widely. But how can we begin to establish a meaningful dialogue with an audience we don’t know?

My name’s James Harle, and in my capacity as a writer for Research Media I work with researchers and research-performing organisations to help share their work in an accessible and impactful way. It can be a demanding task; research is inherently complex after all – if it weren’t, we’d all be doing it – and many investigators are only used to explaining what they do to similarly expert colleagues. In my experience, however, there is no topic so obtuse or abstract that it can’t be made accessible (at least in principle) to a given audience.

And therein lies the crux of the matter: powerful communication – the kind that not only puts a message across but makes it stick, makes it memorable – begins with knowing your audience. When you know the person you’re talking to, you understand their experience and frame of reference; when you can speak directly to someone’s experience, you can engage their interest, and there is no limit to what you can make them understand.

It has often been said that there is some virtue in being able to explain a concept in simple enough terms that your mother (or grandparents, or a barkeep, depending on who you listen to) can understand it. So, in that spirit, let’s use my mother as an example: she’s a middle-aged beekeeper from Devon, with no formal training in the sciences. She doesn’t have any interest in, say, research that uses machine learning to uncover hidden networks within social media – but she does know a hell of a lot about bees, and a handy analogy can bring those two worlds together. I might tell her it’s a computer program that could determine which of her bees had probably been in contact with which other bees behind her back.

It’s easy to communicate effectively with an audience of one – especially if it’s your mum – but engaging the public usually means audiences with higher volumes, and this can raise issues. Specifically, the more people you want to talk to, the more general your frame of reference has to be. At Research Media, some of our most difficult clients are those who want to reach everyone. When you say that your audience is everyone, you are necessarily being lazy; 89 per cent of the world’s population doesn’t speak English, for a start. The fact is that a message to be read by ‘everyone’ may be heard by many, but will be too diluted to achieve any impact.

Another common stumbling block for researchers is falling back on communication methods that work for academic audiences. Too often, I come across scientists who are not prepared to give up (even for a moment) their project acronyms, their technical jargon and their citations. I won’t deny that these tools have their place; they are useful in communicating effectively and efficiently with your immediate colleagues. But the problem is that, put simply, your colleagues already know what you do – and this language won’t help anyone else get in on the action.

So, choose your audience wisely, as they should be at the centre of your communications strategy. When you aim to engage or to explain, begin by exploiting the commonalities between members of your audience; build your communications on shared and fundamental knowledge. Finally, avoid common mistakes that can distort your image of the people you are speaking to. The truth is that, complex as your work may be, it is for the benefit of the general populace – and it won’t be as far from their comprehension as you think.