I'm at the Force 2016 conference in Portland, which is about the future of research communications and e-scholarship. Clear communication of research findings is imperative for many reasons -- from persuading funders to support a project to informing the public about how a new finding can improve their lives.
A major barrier to clear communication is the "curse of knowledge"-- once we know something it is very hard to realize that not everybody else knows it too. Getting outside our own heads is, and will always be, a challenge.
To illustrate this Christie Nicholson of the Alda Center presented the enclosed two sentence description of a Red Sox - Yankees game in 2010. There's so much implicit knowledge packed in these two sentences, which we realized by trying to explain it to people who are not familiar with basbeball.
You need to know all these things to understand this passage fully:
- That the Yankees and Red Sox are fierce rivals
- What rivalry means
- That baseball is divided into divisions called "innings," which are themselves divided into a "top" and "bottom"
- That the home team bats at the bottom of each inning
- What a home team is
- What the object of baseball is
- How the field is arranged
- How the game is played
- What an "ace reliever" is
- What a one-out walk accomplishes
- What one out means
- How many outs are needed to end the inning
- What "strike out swinging" means
- Why this ended the game
And many other things too, no doubt. Whew! No wonder people default to jargon and in-group talk.
Making something truly clear to someone who has no context for it is hard. But it's not impossible if we consciously and deliberately step outside yourselves.