If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself ?

Last Monday was really an interesting, amazing, and probably embarrassing 🙂 night to me. It was my first exposure to this kind of communicating science activities. I believe that communication science is very important to us as future professors. We are supposed to be both researchers and teachers and you need to be a good communicator in both tasks. Otherwise, how can you present your research ideas or findings to your peers in the domain or other interested people?, and how you will give your lectures to students and communicate your knowledge to them? Accordingly, a good communication skills is a must for all of us.

One of the questions asked to us in this workshop was “Do you think you can describe your research work to your family or other naive people?”. In a famous quote, Albert Einstein said that “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself”. I believe that I am dare enough to disagree with Einstein in this quote. 🙂 Einstein overlooked the potential communication skills can bring to the table. Personally, I know a lot of professors who are really well known in their domain with successful publication records and research career, however, they are not good enough in teaching their ideas to others. So, you can be in a situation that you fully understand something, but you cannot convey it to your students, your family members, your peers, or others. Here comes communication skills into the play. Without good communication skills, you will not be able to do that even if you have a good understanding to what you want to convey. You should learn how to grasp the listener’s attention, how to make him interested in your discussion, how to convince him that your work will have an impact on him. Communication science guides you in achieving this goal.

8 Responses so far.

  1. sarahre says:

    This reminds me of the quote, they wanted to quote in class… It is:

    “Richard Feynman, the late Nobel Laureate in physics, was once asked by a Caltech faculty member to explain why spin one-half particles obey Fermi Dirac statistics. Rising to the challenge, he said, “I’ll prepare a freshman lecture on it.” But a few days later he told the faculty member, “You know, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reduce it to the freshman level. That means we really don’t understand it.”

  2. Ashish says:

    I think part of the reason engineering seems so difficult to many people is because it uses a very esoteric lingo. If one looks at the research papers published in any discipline of engineering, one would realize it is difficult to understand just the title if one is not familiar with the discipline. When I think of the last (and the only) technical paper that I published in engineering (renewable energy systems to be precise), I realize that many of the terms used in the title of the paper would be unknown to people if they do not have an electrical engineering degree. On the other hand, if I look at my last engineering education publication, I find the words that I used in the title to be very familiar to most of the people. I wish engineering could adopt a better communication strategy. It will draw more people to engineering.

  3. Mohammad Esfahani says:

    Agreed. This question is fundamental question in my mind: “Do you think you can describe your research work to your family or other naïve people?”. Because I believe a good researcher should be able to explain and publish his/her research in mass media. He should present his research in a simple way to be understood for all people.

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