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Marrying scientific rigour with creative vigour

By Andrew Croskery

Andrew

We’ve all been there: sitting in a congress with slide after slide of data, data, data. It can be overwhelming, confusing... even boring. And with so much competition for their attention, how difficult must it be for healthcare professionals to focus on what’s important?

As medical education professionals, I believe our challenge is to connect people to data. So how do we do it?

These are the five crucial questions I consider when grappling with new data:

  1. Who is the audience? Find a way of presenting your data that works for your audience. Should you strip the findings back to their essence or are the details vital to understanding their impact?
  2. What’s the context? Data on its own tells us little – only by bringing in the surrounding context can we really bring to life its potential implications. A little curiosity can uncover valuable insights that shape the audience’s understanding of the data.
  3. What’s the story? Find a balanced structure that makes sense when you ‘zoom out’ from the data. What is the unmet need, and how does the data show a potential solution?
  4. How does the data apply to the real world? Convey how the data could change patient care – otherwise, what’s the point?
  5. Is the ‘so what’ clear? Emphasise the elements of data that are most interesting – otherwise you may as well hand out the clinical study report.

Once you have the core story in place, it is critical to then consider how you present the findings.

Present the data in a way that is memorable and engaging. Your first instinct might be spot on, or it might just be the obvious choice. Images shouldn’t just be an afterthought. But, remember, data visualisation isn’t a magic wand. Explore the data to find new connections that bring out the clinical impact. Try sketching out content before writing a single word,
or perhaps bringing in other perspectives. You might think of a unique way to convey your message.

Marrying scientific rigour with creative vigour is vital. It can be the difference between your data getting lost in the wilderness or standing out from the crowd.

Andrew Croskery, Senior Medical Writer, Real Science

4th June 2019

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