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  • Writer's pictureBrendan Cox

Breaking Down Complex Science: The Importance of Communicating Complex Research to the Public

As a freshwater researcher, I have presented my findings at several conferences. While these presentations are important for disseminating research results to fellow scientists, communicating these findings to the public is equally important. This is where science communication comes into play. My current study, which uses experimental mesocosms to simulate extreme wildfire-induced temperature changes, showed that even short-term increases in water temperature could significantly affect invertebrate communities in low-order streams. These communities play crucial roles in the ecosystem, acting as water quality indicators and providing food for fish and other predators. However, communicating these findings to the public can be a challenge.


Science can often be complex and technical, making it difficult for people outside the field to understand and appreciate its importance. This is where science communication comes in the process of sharing scientific information with non-experts in a way that is accessible and engaging. One way to effectively communicate complex research is through clear and concise language. This means avoiding jargon and technical terms that may be unfamiliar to people outside the field. Instead, we can use analogies and metaphors to help explain the research in everyday terms. For example, we might compare the invertebrate communities in low-order streams to the foundation of a house, emphasizing their importance to the ecosystem as a whole. In the case of this study, communicating the findings to the public is crucial for raising awareness about the impact of wildfires on freshwater ecosystems. By sharing the results of this research in an accessible and engaging way, we can help to ensure that policymakers and the public take action to protect these vital habitats.


Using a catchy title like "Hot Water and Cool Critters" rather than the more technical title "Examining the Response of Stream Invertebrate Communities to Rapid Water Temperature Spike Associated with Extreme Wildfire in Low Order Streams Using Experimental Mesocosms" is an excellent way to make your research more accessible to the public. The catchy title is more engaging and easier to remember, making it more likely that people will be interested in learning more about your study. As a result, using catchy and memorable titles can play a significant role in promoting the importance of science communication and engaging the public with scientific research.


Another important aspect of science communication is engaging the public in the research process itself. This can involve sharing updates on social media, hosting public lectures or webinars, or even inviting members of the community to participate in the research itself. By involving the public in the research process, we can foster a greater appreciation for science and its role in our lives. Presenting research findings through public events and symposiums is also a great way to promote science communication. For example, the Research in the Richmond symposium being held Sunday 7th of May, from 10 am to 1 pm at Whitebrook Theatre at SCU Lismore, is a great opportunity to share science with the public. This event will showcase research relating to North Coast NSW and environmental science, featuring researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds.

At Research in the Richmond, attendees can learn about the latest research happening in the catchment, engage with scientists during the networking and lunch session, and participate in discussions on emerging issues. This event is a platform for promoting science communication and spreading awareness about research that impacts us all.


In conclusion, making research findings accessible through effective science communication is critical for promoting scientific literacy and promoting informed decision-making. My study on the response of stream invertebrate communities to rapid water temperature spikes is just one example of how science communication can bridge the gap between scientific research and the public. Events like Research in the Richmond can help promote science communication by showcasing research, facilitating discussion, and engaging the public. Join us on Sunday 7th of May at Whitebrook Theatre at SCU Lismore to participate in this exciting event!


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