Communicating Science Effectively

Communicating Science Effectively

Author: Vera Koester

Presenting Chemistry in an Understandable Way

Communicating knowledge about chemistry and chemical relationships for a wide audience in an understandable way can promote the acceptance of chemistry in society. It is also a skill which is increasingly in demand in the professional environment of chemists and students, for example, when applying for fellowships or grants. There are many opportunities to practice and talk about chemistry, since we all come into contact with chemicals on a daily basis, use products that are produced by the chemical industry, or benefit in other ways from a comprehensive understanding of chemical connections.

Presenting one’s own research topics or talking about a chemistry-related topic, however, has to be learned. How do you teach important concepts? Which analogies and comparisons are helpful? How do you explain clearly for laymen? How do you transport your own fascination and passion?


ChiuZ Storylab

In the journal Chemie in Unserer Zeit, or “ChiuZ”, for short, complex chemical facts are presented in a comprehensible way. For 50 years, the journal has successfully covered current topics of chemical research for non-specialists through easy-to-understand language and colored illustrations. Since last year, the editorial office has also shared their knowledge with interested scientists.

In a one-day workshop, the “Chiuz Storylab”, editors teach students and chemists how complex issues can be treated in an understandable manner for the general public. Participants learn rules for good writing and storytelling. This includes the art of giving a story a leitmotif, using lively language which attracts readers, and finding appropriate images and comparisons. Participants of the Storylab practice this by working on their own texts. They either bring a topic of their own choice or choose something from a supplied list. In addition, the workshop gives insights about the everyday life of science journalists.

Doris Fischer-Henningsen (editor), Uta Bilow (curator), also known for her articles in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), and writers such as Klaus Roth started the ChiuZ-Storylab in March 2015 in Münster, Germany, at the Young Chemists Forum of the GDCh (German Chemical Society). The second workshop was held at the GDCh’s biannual meeting Wissenschaftsforum in Dresden, Germany, in September 2015. And a third was held at the Spring Symposium of the JungChemikerForum (JCF, Young Chemists’ Forum) of the GDCh in Kiel, Germany, on March 16, 2016.

The results of these writing workshops are texts, which are published in ChiuZ if they are suitable. Michael Sheremet, a graduate student at the University of Bochum, Germany, for example, is the author of an article on the sought-after fragrance cashmeran and newly manufactured analogs [1]. Torsten John, PhD student at the University of Leipzig, Germany, wrote an article on new findings in Alzheimer research [2]. Ricardo Nowack, Master’s student at the University of Greifswald, Germany, wrote an article looking at fireworks and alternative chemical mixtures that are as brilliant and light-intensive as currently used chemicals, but not hazardous to health [3]. All three articles have been published recently in ChiuZ.

[1] Michael Sheremet, Begehrter Duftstoff aus der Retorte (in German), Chem. Uns. Zeit 2015, 49(4), 223.

[2] Torsten John, Neue Ansätze gegen Alzheimer (in German), Chem. Uns. Zeit 2015, 49(6), 361.

[3] Ricardo Nowack, Grünes Rot: chlorfreie Pyrotechnik (in German), Chem. Uns. Zeit 2016, 50(1), 15.


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