As coordinator of the European consortium MIMOmics, I have to take care that scientific milestones are reached and that we deliver our products (methodology) in time. This has been part of my job for many years. However the European Union also expects dissemination at various levels. To your own scientific peers. No problem! To the general public. HELP!
Dissemination to my own discipline, I have done from the beginning of my career. My PhD thesis consists of five papers published in scientific journals. Already during my PhD studies, I presented my work at international conferences. What about dissemination to other disciplines? As an applied statistician I am also used to explain my work to my collaborators from medicine, biology and social sciences. The role of quantitative methodologists in (bio)medical research is widely acknowledged. They need us. We need them.
Why do I find dissemination to the public so difficult?
Questions about my job, I have always answered with: “something with genetics” or “something with how we can become long-lived”.. “Oh that is interesting!” was the reaction most of the time. When I accidentally mentioned statistics or mathematics, the reaction was: “How can a woman like you, love mathematics?”
Thus to disseminate our work in MIMOmics I needed to change my attitude. I needed to explain methods in the context of healthcare utilization.
I had one previous attempt to make a video clip for the general public, which completely failed. The topic was 50 years Medical Statistics in Leiden. Why didn’t this work out well? Among others reasons were: I had not sufficient time. I could not come up with one general theme. Perhaps I was not able to find the right people to give me advice? I did not dare? Too far out of my comfort zone?
A video clip for MIMOmics was thus a second attempt. First I discussed my plan with Ellen, who is the manager of the consortium, and with Jantien who made the MIMOmics website. Both of them do not understand my field, but they know me. With Jantien I had also struggled to find illustrations for the first MIMOmics white paper. The discussions with Ellen and Jantien yielded some small ideas, but not a general concept yet.
I discussed my problems with my sister. She writes inspiring blogs about writing blogs. She pointed out some video clips which might provide ideas.
Then there was the reviewer of our EU project who had lots and lots of comments on our dissemination plans. Most of these comments I found ridiculous. We first need to develop methods and this is very very difficult and very very time consuming. Nothing to disseminate yet!! No time for dissemination at all!!!
Was my reaction appropriate?
Anyway I wrote the plot for the video clip during a flight from Leeds to Amsterdam. I explained it to Jantien and Ellen. Jantien recommended Pollie to make the drawings. We had a meeting! And Voila!
Please have a look at mimomics.eu to find the result:
Why was I able to make this video clip?
To do something completely new, you need to give yourself some time. You need a group to discuss the first ideas with and who stimulate you not to give up. And a push from outside your own network helps as well!