Lost in Translation

I’ve just revisited Heidelberg. It’s been almost 20 years since I last took a tour of the castle and looked at the city from the Old Bridge. Well, sightseeing wasn’t the purpose this time but I must admit I had a very quick peek while wolfing down a sandwich. One thing that annoys me is that although I have studied German for five years (but that was more than 20 years ago) I still find it difficult to understand and hesitate to use the phrases I can manage. Most fortunate, most inhabitants speak excellent English which may be the result of the US chosing to locate their HQ to Heidelberg after WW2 and still using it as a centre.

I visited the US Army Medical Research Unit-Europe in Heidelberg and they made an excellent presentation of the work they do. They emphasised the importance of providing feedback to the units immediately after gathering data, as a way to give something back. We also talked about the responsibility you have as a researcher, especially when your suggestions can be turned into policy rather quickly. Communication skills thus seem to be something that should be on the curriculum for all PhD programs. However, time and money is short so how can your develop material for so diverse groups as your fellow researchers in the international academic community, national and international policy-makers, managers and the people you hope to help with your results? And without distorting your findings and their implications?

Another research group that has made an excellent job of using different media to present their results is the think tank Demos based in London. At their website you can download all their reports, you can get an RSS feed, podcasts, make comment at their blog and much more.

There will be a conference in Sweden next year focusing on research dissemination: The International Network on Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) conference. I’m considering proposing a workshop on the use of metaphors in research communication. This one I picked up recently:
Conducting military operations in a low-intensity conflict without ethnographic and cultural intelligence is like building a house without using your thumbs: it is a wasteful, clumsy, and unnecessarily slow process at best, with a high probability for frustration and failure. Kipp, Grau, Prinslow & Smith, 2006)

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