Use the principles of storytelling to communicate science in ethical and compelling ways.
Storytelling is powerful. Talking about your research through stories can engage, compel, and drive a deeper understanding of science. Stories of Science offers one-on-one coaching, customized workshops, and public trainings to support researchers in science communication. It was founded by Dr. Lisa Cantrell, a developmental psychologist who has worked in laboratories for over 15 years conducting quantitative experiments to understand human cognition and as a science journalist reporting stories for NPR.
Cantrell founded Stories of Science after seeing the gap between research and public understanding of science. She works with researchers to help them prepare presentations for conferences, job interviews, and public events as well as written work including policy briefs, grant applications, manuscripts, and blogs.
Her expertise is in using storytelling components to engage audiences with ethical responsibility to share research findings with the public, stakeholders, and members of the scientific community. She has coached researchers across disciplines and has consulted for government agencies, health care professionals, and industry leaders.
Why use storytelling?
Research has shown that we understand and remember information better when it is told to us in a story form. Stories of all genres contain certain components that our brains find appealing, including tension, stakes, and climax. When we use those same components and apply it to our scientific presentations, it can not only help a listener understand the data better, but also excite, compel, and persuade.
As scientists, we have been trained to believe that “the data should speak for itself” and that the use of any persuasion techniques is non-objective– not what science should be about. I agree that, as scientists, we have a responsibility to share facts with the public. However, when we choose to not use stories to talk about our research, we are doing a disservice by not giving listeners the most scaffolding to understand our work and its implications. If we know how to ethically use narrative, we can harness its power to support a deeper engagement with important data, ultimately driving more innovation within the research community and leading to greater public understanding of science.