“An accident is often understood to be unpredictable – a chance occurrence or an ‘act of God’ – and therefore unavoidable. However, most injuries and their precipitating events are predictable and preventable”.*
I recently delivered a lecture on sport safety for a group of third year university students and, as usual, I introduced myself with a short overview of my background and how I came to be in Australia. In all, it took a couple of minutes of the forty-five minute session. I was there to discuss the more ‘important’ work that my PhD focuses on.
Today I have been compelled to reflect (and to get these thoughts onto
paper the internet).
The sport safety work that I was there to share will have significance in the years and decades to come, but the first couple of minutes where I told my story resonated more than the ‘important’ work ever could.
Because there are no such things as accidents*.
People respond to a narrative that is personal. As researchers we learn to relay the facts, to get to the point. This is particularly true at conferences and lectures, and as a result this is what we become accustomed to. Often the passion that underpins why we became researchers is lost in the pressure to sell our work in a manner that seems more professional. No real passion beyond the flustered behaviour sometimes seen when we are challenged, and no real personality to reflect our humanism.
This does not mean that the importance of the work is undermined in any way, but that the delivery is suited to the audience and built with an informative narrative in mind. Finding the delicate balance between the importance of the work, the traditional delivery, and the narrative may take years to develop; but if we as scientists expect people to believe in our cause then we need to find a way to share our passion deliberately in a well thought out presentation. In my opinion, this Ted Talk on statistics by Hans Rosling is a great example of this skill.
Perhaps I am just a naive PhD student, or perhaps this is something that we all need to reflect on.
My sincere thanks to the student who caused me to reflect.
*Davis, R.M., & Pless, B. (2001) BMJ bans ‘accidents’: accidents are not unpredictable. British Medical Journal. 322; pp 1320.