In the 21st century, communication skills for natural scientists, experts and professionals, are essential.
It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon and the sunlit beech-spruce forest behind the Slovenian Forestry Institute is full of children who are watching dr. Urša Vilhar. She is demonstrating how the water flow over the trunk of the tree is measured and makes a reading from the instrument used for this research.
The wide-eyed children ask bright, yet sometimes unrelated questions, which Urša happily answers. Later, they are going to visit one of the institute’s laboratories and conduct some experiments of their own. At home, they are going to tell their parents about what they have learned and maybe, just maybe, some of them will treasure this experience and walk a path in their life that is connected to forests and nature.
When I was starting my professional career, I looked with frustration at the great divide between technological achievement and actual awareness, implementation and accessibility of research results to the average person. It was then that I decided to work on my own communication skills. This is also why I took the challenge and changed jobs form a calm forest management position to a hectic project communications and dissemination management job. My opinion is that it is the utmost duty of any scientist, expert or person with knowledge to spread this knowledge in an ethical way and for the betterment of human society.“Forest experiments” are a part of our institute’s efforts to bring forest science closer to people that would otherwise have a low chance of getting to know it. We work with different people for different purposes, preparing messages and activities for school children, media members, parents, retired persons … and more specific groups such as forestry professionals, scientists, government officials etc. We believe that we need to make our best efforts to make our messages heard in this age of information hyper flow. We do so because:
- We are a public institution and the public deserves to know about our work.
- Our knowledge can help build a more sustainable future for Slovenia and the world; it is crucial for the work and output of different stakeholders.
- Feedback from our stakeholders makes our knowledge and new research more suited to its practical users and therefore more relevant.
- Many new connections, partnerships and projects are formed from channels, opened through different communication and dissemination activities.
Most experts tend to avoid communicating because it is a stressful and difficult addition to their already busy work schedule. Fear and uneasiness usually accompany public performances, clashes of facts and opinions can be tiresome and unpaid hours of work when preparing messages make most of us wonder if it is worth it. I am sure that it is; in a democracy, the best path to achieve the implementation of your work and ensure long-lasting results is through good communication.
This is why I believe that the willingness to communicate and a person’s communication skills are crucial for their personal success and the impact and meaningfulness of their ideas and work. The days of “ivory tower scientists” are behind us and it is the time for empowered and self-confident scientists, professionals and expert to make themselves heard and put their knowledge to use for the betterment of the world; locally and globally.
So, the next time a tree falls in your forest, make sure that it is heard!
Blogpost and pictures submitted by Boris Rantaša (LIFEGENMON Project – Forestry Institute, Slovenia) – boris.rantasa(at)gozdis.si
Pictures courtesy SPIRIT and Boris Rantaša
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
This post is published as entry #62 of our #Forests2015 blog competition. It is submitted in the “Youth” category.
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