The FibreNet project gathers around 20 different nationalities, i.e. many different languages.
Yet, this title does not refer to our skills in communicating in foreign languages. We all speak English. Or, at least, we try to exchange concepts, ideas, research methodologies expressed in the language of Shakespeare. I must admit I’m impressed by the excellent English of our ESRs. As a senior French-speaking scientist, this is still a hard task for me. I’m French, no surprise.
No, this title actually refers to the difficulty of sharing knowledge with peers who are not familiar with your scientific field. Every community seems to have its own terminology, sometimes shared with another community but with different meanings, triggering many misunderstandings and misconceptions.
Let’s take 2 examples:
Honestly, this list is endless.
What can we do to move away from this chaos? I have no magical recipes but when preparing a presentation, writing a project proposal or a paper, I keep in mind the words of Prof. J. De Coninck who was my PhD supervisor (a long time ago). In short, he kept on saying that you do not give a presentation for yourselves or your supervisor but for the people who know nothing about your work. You should prepare your presentation as if you know nothing about your own topic. This is extremely difficult but I’m convinced this is the only way to communicate efficiently to “scientific” foreigners.
David Seveno, Associate professor, PhD
Composite Materials Group, KU Leuven