Activity 5.1 - Translate the evidence for the audience

Site: IHE DELFT OPEN COURSEWARE
Course: 2018 Science Communication Skills for Water Cooperation and Diplomacy
Book: Activity 5.1 - Translate the evidence for the audience
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Date: Saturday, 27 November 2021, 7:02 AM

1 - Introduction

Remember that non-specialists are not the primary audience for a scientific journal, so you will have to do the hard work and translate numbers into more manageable terms. There are key differences between the person that sits down to read a journal article, and someone who might not be seeking out your work. Here are a few with some implications:

  • Literacy and numeracy skills will vary, so removing this as a barrier where possible is essential. 
  • Even if fairly numerate, a non-specialist audience might not have the time to dig deep into the numbers in your research. 
  • Non-specialist audiences are more likely to understand the significance of numbers if they have something relatable to compare it to. 
  • Non-specialists may need additional support in understanding the risk of something e.g. actual risk versus perceived risk; individual versus population risk; absolute versus relative risk. 
  • Wider audiences increasingly consume content in a ‘snack-like’ way, wanting smaller snippets of information that can be consumed quickly e.g. Twitter. This has implications for the statistics you choose to communicate. 

2 - Alternatives to statistics and numbers

Activity instructions

  1. Suggest an alternative way of communicating the following statistics and numbers (they are from real water science research). Make sure that the analogy you choose is relevant to your target audience.
  2. Write these in your notes as they might be useful later. 


Statistical concept or figure

The Nile River Basin is inhabited by 257 million people

The Nile is 6695 km long

The Nile drains over 3,176,541 km2

After 2006, it increased significantly by 200%

It captured the observed flow well with a Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSE) of greater than 0.74 and with a PBIAS of less than 10%...

The mean error was 0.02km3/year

Bias value of the final model result was 0.99, which is near the ideal value of Bias (1.00)


If you had to research what some of these, then imagine how hard it is for non-specialists to begin to understand technical methods used in any water science field.

3 - Suggested alternatives

Statistical concept or figure

Alternative

The Nile River Basin is inhabited by 257 million people

That’s roughly two and a half times the population of Ethiopia alone.


If having the exact figure is essential, then keep it but compare it to something relatable. 

The Nile is 6695 km long

That’s like travelling from Cairo to Khartoum three times.



The Nile drains over 3,176,541 km2

Roughly three times the area of Egypt.


Choose something contextually relevant, for example Egypt might not be the example you want to use.

After 2006, it increased significantly by 200%

It doubled.

It captured the observed flow well with a Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSE) of greater than 0.74 and with a PBIAS of less than 10%...

The model proved to be a good predictor of flow.


Explain the context for the audience. E.g. this is the best prediction made so far and means...

The mean error was 0.02km3/year

The measurements made had very little uncertainty about them… .about 5 car lengths off which for this type of research is very good.


A reader might think 5 car lengths off is a lot, so make sure you explain that for the field in question, given the huge numbers, it’s very accurate.

Bias value of the final model result was 0.99, which is near the ideal value of Bias (1.00)

Anything between 0.6 and 0.8 usually indicates a good model, but 0.99 indicates that this is an excellent model.


Explaining why it’s good is also an effective strategy

4 - Your own list


Activity instructions

  1. Choose a combination of numbers and statistical explanations that you think are essential when communicating your research. 
  2. Come up with alternatives that are very easy to understand. Test them on a non-specialist and get feedback. Add explanations for tricky methods or concepts. 
  3. Share these with others in the forum on the next page and see if you can pick up any ideas.