Speaking Out for Research: Effective communication, better research
Emily Trivett from LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) introduces us to the Speak Out Toolkit in this month's blog...
Communication is part of a researcher’s everyday life. Giving talks, writing papers and proposals, communicating with a wide range of audiences, and most of all, learning and educating others. We believe that regardless of field, or career path, researchers must communicate - effectively. Having the skills to communicate research in an inspiring way ensures; improved understanding, effective uptake of research findings, prevention of misinformation and support of evidence-informed decision making.
This means transmitting messages clearly and concisely. It is about engaging your audience, and asking ‘Why does it matter?’ and ‘How does it relate to my everyday life?’. When researchers communicate effectively, science, new ideas and innovation thrives.
Developing communications skills
Communication is a real skill that must be developed but honing expertise in this area is often overlooked. There are still relatively few training opportunities for science professionals to develop these skills. Effective communication is not seen as a ‘soft’ skill but becoming a core part of the professional skills every scientist and researcher should have.
With this in mind, LEAF has worked as part of the DIVERSify project to develop the Speak Out Toolkit. It is an online communications training resource providing guidance, advice and support for researchers and others to perfect their communications skills as well as boost confidence. Written and developed by leading agricultural communications experts, it is packed full of easy-to-use guidance and resources, providing step by step support for farmers and researchers, helping them think about communications at every stage and providing guidance on best practice.
"The website has a great toolkit that provides a useful resource for top tips and reference materials" Vicky Foster, British Beet Research Organisation
The need to speak out
Speak Out was originally created by in the early 2000’s as a communications training package for farmers. Its aim was to help communicate farming stories to the public and it was later built on to include a communications training programme primarily through workshops and a CD rom!
LEAF’S work within DIVERSify has built upon the concept to produce an online suite of interactive training resources for researchers and scientists to improve their communications skills and know how - whether it be online, on paper, out in the field, through photographs, presentations or on social media. Resources include top tips and support for making your work stand out, through posters, written articles, powerful presentations at conferences, TV and radio, organising workshops, and interactive events, influencing and making professional use of social media, to name a few.
"I found the hints and tips of great use when it came to filming a story for BBC Countryfile and contributing to a number of BBC Radio 4 Farming Today pieces" Davy McCracken, SRUC Kirton, Auchtertye farms and LEAF Innovation Centre
Far reaching and adapting to change
The Speak Out Toolkit is not limited for use by those within the DIVERSify project. We see it being of far-reaching relevance to other researchers, advisors and farmers who host farm visits, talk with a range of audiences and reach out online. Please do check it out.
The Speak Out toolkit is interactive and engaging and available for all.
First launched in April 2017, the toolkit is going from strength to strength with new resources added regularly taking into account the feedback that we have received throughout the project from project partners, as well as from external users. Adapting to what users want from the toolkit, continually looking at what resources will be needed in the future, and changing needs and priorities in light of current events, such as the move online that we have seen as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, is a key priority. We are presently looking to develop resources to help researchers, farmers and the wider community strengthen their online meeting and webinar communications, as well as developing resources for podcast production.
Get involved - take a look, hone your skills and let us know what you think! https://leafuk.org/speakout
We also provide Speak Out events - covering all you need to know about communicating your farming messages in person, through farm visits, presentations and talks, on paper, online, in the media and through photos, film and social media. You can learn more about our up and coming events here.