It's essential that researchers effectively communicate their work to the public, but sometimes they need to use more than just the facts to do so. According to a new JAMA editorial, scientists should use anecdotes when speaking about their work to the public, reports Katherine Harmon at the Scientific American Observations blog. According to the editorial's authors, the University of Pennsylvania's Zachary Meisel and Jason Karlawish, researchers should take a page out of the books of advocacy groups that specialize in telling personal stories to convey a point. "In the scientific realm, anecdotal evidence — the individual patient, the single result — tends to be shunned in favor of large, dense data sets and impersonal statistical analyses," Harmon says. Although that should remain the foundation of good research, stories can be used as examples of that science, she adds. "Stories are an essential part of how individuals understand and use evidence," Meisel and Karlawish write in JAMA. "Each time, those who espouse only evidence — without narratives about real people — struggle to control the debate. Typically, they lose."
Make it Personal
Nov 10, 2011