Diving in the Science Communication Deep End: Day 1 of AXA Pop Days 2014

The science popularization event of the AXA Research Fund continues Thursday and Friday.

AXA Pop Days began today with 19 fellows of the AXA Research Fund thrown (gently!) into the science communication deep end. The young researchers dove right in, presenting, in two minutes, not their own work, but a partner’s research, on a subject previously unknown to them: from earthquakes to modeling welfare benefits to the acoustic precursors of storm surges. Their coaches gave great, concrete advice on improving presentations and enriching your communication with metaphors. Read more about what the AXA grantees learned, and follow more live tweets Thursday and Friday with #AXApopdays. 

AXA Pop Days began today with 19 fellows of the AXA Research Fund thrown (gently!) into the science communication deep end. Godefroy Beauvallet, Head of the AXA Research Fund, opened the event not only with a presentation on the fund’s activities — €114 million attributed to some 400 funded projects — but also with a challenge to Pop Days participants: On this June 18th, learn to give a speech as efficient and effective as Charles de Gaulle’s famous BBC transmission on this very day in 1940! Oh, is that all?!

 

The young researchers dove right into the communication of science by presenting, in two minutes, not their own work, but a partner’s research, on a subject previously unknown to them. The thunderstorm researcher talked about earthquakes. The economist modeling welfare benefits presented on the acoustic precursors to storm surges.

Playing “good cop-bad cop”, their trainers gave immediate feedback, public-speaking food for thought. Some AXA grantees needed to improve eye contact with their audience or benefit from silence to improve their rhythm. Others, said coach Marie-Aline Roule, made good use of hand gestures that “go and get the audience”, drawing them in. 

 

The coaches of this 5th AXA Pop Days then took the heat off their trainees, presenting themselves on the elements of a good PowerPoint presentation. Be designers, not decorators, trainer Emilie L’Hôte advised. Communicate hierarchy without the tired bullet-point list. Even if some research subjects demand detail, think on the minimalist side: there is a happy medium between the monks’ monastery and a Rococo church! 

Finally, participants learned from Emilie L’Hôte, who is also a cognitive linguist, that metaphor is a fundamental part of human nature and cognition. Our brains use them naturally—use them in your presentations! An interesting discussion on the dangers versus relative value of a misinterpreted metaphor followed.

AXA Pop Days continues tomorrow and Friday with more workshops on the tricks and tools of communicating science. On Thursday, follow the hashtag #AXApopdays to learn more about the research of these 19 grantees of the AXA Research Fund, as well as a fascinating talk on innovation in research, with Professor Emmanuel Fort, who holds the AXA-ESPCI Chair in Biomedical Imaging. Friday, find out how much these young researchers learned, when they present their work to an audience of AXA executives!

                                Schedule of Live-Tweets (#AXApopdays)

Thursday, June 19th

11:00am – 12:15pm 

Research Presentations by AXA Research Fund grantees (Part 1)

2:15pm – 3:20pm 

Research Presentations by AXA Research Fund grantees (Part 2)

5:15 – 6:20pm

Master Class with Professor Emmanuel Fort

 

Friday, June 20th

11:30am – 12:45pm

Your Research Explained to Executives