How can the benchmarks of scientific peer-to-peer communication be moved forward? Olle Bergman, communications consultant and project leader of Crastina, has a suggestion: what if research groups would start spending 3 percent of their budget on professional communication services?
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Some fifteen years ago, my wife and I decided to move from Lund— one of the classic university towns of Sweden — to Eskilstuna — an industrialcity not very far from Stockholm. Overnight our social backdrop changed radically. In Lund, it felt like a social burden not to have a PhD title or a grandfather looking down from an oil painting in the corridor of a faculty building. In Eskilstuna, on the other hand, we quickly noted that our neighbours and sports club mates didn’t really care about titles, family or connections. This, to be honest, was actually a great relief.

The move to Eskilstuna represented my second and final step away from the bosom of the academic environment. The first step took place seven years earlier when I hastily quit my Ph.D studies in neuroscience and became an editorial assistant at a local publishing house (a story that also deserves to be told!) This urgent change of plans ultimately became the starting point of my career as a freelance communications consultant, public speaker and writer. 

Today, 25 years after I hung up the lab coat, I still interact with science and tech people every week – mostly researchers in life sciences. But through the years I have also met, trained and worked alongside professionals from large and small industries, media houses, public administration, NGOs, advertising and PR agencies as well as with a plethora of freelancers of all kinds.

This experience has given me a very special opportunity: to compare the communication cultures of very different professional domains. 

And I do have to say that the academic culture somewhat puzzles me. There’s no doubt that most research groups in the STEMM area represent an agglomeration of brilliant minds, working together towards common goals. But although researchers can perform mind-bending, world-class things in one area, they can be so — pardon my French! — amateurish and parochial in others. Anyone who has visited a research congress knows what I mean: there are simply too many scientists wasting the valuable time of their peers by delivering poor oral sessions or presenting badly designed research posters.

I will not dwell on the weaknesses per se, but simply conclude that – as I see it – the benchmarks of scientific peer-to-peer communication need to be moved forward. A very simple way of getting there is to start working with communication professionals. To see what I mean, imagine a scientific congress where all the presenting research groups have spent 3 percent of their budget on professional services from public speaking trainers, scientific illustrators, rhetorical experts and visual editors. There is no doubt that all the participants – presenters and audience alike – would use their precious time in a more effective way in this manner. In the words of Hamlet: “Tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d!”

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Olle Bergman
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Olle Bergman

communications consultant

Olle Bergman, M.Sc. is a Swedish communications consultant, public speaker & professional writer with a passion for science, language, history & people. He is the project leader of Crastina – a networking platform for the exchange of knowledge, skills, experience and opinion regarding peer-to-peer scientific communication and science dissemination.
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