In class today, we ended up talking about communicating our research to people. One person said she wanted to learn how to talk about it in a way that other people understood and jokingly mentioned blogging. I interjected with just to actually explicitly talk about the article I read a few months before coming down here that suggested doctoral students do just that - blog as a means of not only honing their own voice/craft, but also as a means of practicing that translation.
Someone else then made a counter argument that she didn't necessarily think that was something that should fall onto her to do; that she felt better suited to be that complex thinker (sic) and let the people specializing in health communications worry about translation for lay audiences. The professor then cosigned this, talking about how she's not naturally an off-the-cuff paraphraser of her research and she is definitely more comfortable in that more deliberate and methodical realm of scientist-to-scientist communication.
My initial reaction was one of surprise and confusion. Why wouldn't you want to talk to broad audiences about your research? Shouldn't the public matter in public health??
Pump the brakes there, self. Your research interests lie specifically in that science-society interface. Of course you think that's important, you want to make your home there. Not everyone is focused on that. More importantly, not everyone needs to or should be Focused on that knowledge translation. For some people, that's not a strength or even a handy skill. And that's ok. There's plenty of work to go around both at that public-meets-health-researcher boundary and miles away from it in either direction for it to not be a necessary part of everyone's doctoral journey. Just like not everyone needs to learn qualitative methods and not everyone needs to learn demography, this is another thing that is specific to your biased researcher perspective. It's just not that serious.
Kudos, school. I hadn't thought about the fact that translation, interpretation, and communication are not within everyone's top 10 list of things to care about. Well, I did say that I wanted to use doctoral study as a way of consciously considering my own biases when conducting research... I guess part of the question for me then is why should my research matter? Obviously, I think it does in an intuitive way, but it's...not...actually...intuitive. Hmm. To me, this kind of knowledge translation matters because it informs how we develop health education curricula, the kinds of health messages we should (and already do) put out there, the health perceptions as social norms that we as a field help to co-create. The more we know about our impacts on health beliefs, perceptions, norms, and behaviors, the better we can tailor health messages to create the kinds of outcomes we want and the better we get at minimizing the unintended consequences we don't want.
Hmm. That's better than I've ever been able to articulate my research interests (and motivation behind it) I think
Assumptions shattered in PhD school so far: 1.
Not so bad for halfway through my second week.