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How to Write a Research Impact Story that Speaks to the Right Audience

Impact Story H2 v4 (2)

Knowledge translation is playing an increasingly visible role in driving innovation, with the Research Impact Story emerging as a recognizable genre used by funding organizations, research institutes, and start-ups.

Typically, the story begins something like this:

Meet our Researcher of the Month, Dr. Letitia Song.

Dr. Song grew up in the small town of Cambridge, Ontario, where her family had settled upon immigrating from Vietnam. When Dr. Song’s mother, Lila, was diagnosed with a particularl…

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Using Video for Knowledge Translation: What "The Worst Remake" of a Classic American Novel Teaches Us About Translating from One Medium to Another

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In 1995, I spent most of my days buried in fiction and scholarship that took me back to the middle of the 1800s. When I wasn’t poring over microfilm of nineteenth-century women’s magazines, I was reading literary criticism about women’s writing during the era of such celebrated male authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville.

As I pursued these two research tracks, I read with one foot in highbrow culture—the world of Hawthorne and Melville—and the other in the lowbrow culture of “domes…

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It’s Time to Rethink the Syllogisms We Tell Ourselves About Creating and Sharing Knowledge

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We often think of core values as standalone principles. But aren’t they really a set of interrelated assumptions? When I think of the values that have shaped my career, they form a syllogism:

  • Knowledge is a treasure.
  • Treasure is for sharing.
  • Therefore, knowledge is for sharing.

Because I’ve much of my life mistakenly thinking that everyone shares my perspective, it took me years to realize that the middle piece of this syllogism isn’t necessarily a given. In fact, in many ways, cultural …

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In the Promethean Effort to Mitigate the Climate Crisis, We Can’t Afford Knowledge Hoarding

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When I really need a shot of optimism, there’s nothing like a dose of Romantic poetry to shift my outlook from despairing to hopeful. That’s Romantic with a capital R. Not poetry commemorating the bond between lovers but poetry that celebrates the connection between humanity and nature, the depth and breadth of human emotion, and the transformative nature of art.

At the start of this new year, I feel in deep need of some Romantic buoyancy. The state of our fragile planet seems more fragile than…

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How to Use History to Sell Innovation

Innovation depends on a web of previous wonders. Once you recognize that, you gain access to an array of metaphors and language that can help you explain what you’ve created, how it works, and why it matters. (1)

Dip into any field of art—literature, painting, music, dance—and you’ll quickly discover that the concept of “originality” is problematic. 

Was Shakespeare the most original playwright of his time, or just the cleverest borrower of plots and characters? Was Picasso an iconoclast, or by so obviously defying the “rules” did he also show them reverence? 

When I was immersed in the world of literary scholarship, much of my thinking was shaped by theories of “intertextuality.” Intertextuality ackno…

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Have you seen the latest knowledge translation movie?

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Until last week, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a KT film. But The Trick (2021) definitely fits that bill. It offers a fascinating, and frightening, glimpse into the pressures that threaten the accurate, ethical communication of scientific research.

The British flick presents one version of the scandal that swirled around the University of East Anglia in 2009. That’s when a hacker (who’s never been identified) leaked emails from the Climactic Research Unit (CRU). Taken out of context a…

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You're Not a "Bad Writer": You're Just an Expert

you're not a bad writer

Many client conversations start with a complaint about some aspect of the writing process and self-deprecating statements. For example:

“I just can’t seem to find the right words; I guess I have an inadequate vocabulary.”

“My grammar is terrible.”

“I'm so wordy!"

On the surface, such statements can seem to point to mechanical issues:

  • Fumbling for the right words could indicate a usage issue (problem with accurately using vocabulary).
  • Feeling ashamed about “grammar” could indicate an issu…

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Three Powerful Ways to Simplify Complexity Without “Dumbing It Down”

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We live in a world where sound bites rule the airwaves and tweeting contests among political candidates have replaced intelligent public debate. In business, the one-pager rules. Strategic plans are now compressed into placemats and funding requests into short pitch decks.

At the same time, the huge challenges we face as a planet—and the solutions needed to address them—defy easy simplification. If it were truly possible to boil climate change issues down into an infographic or blog post, we wo…

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For technical founders exasperated by trying to communicate with funders and customers

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How many times have you watched this scene play out at a store checkout counter?

A customer approaches the counter with a question about a product, a pair of shoes say. The clerk behind the counter answers the question hurriedly, not recognizing that the customer doesn’t speak fluent English.

The customer asks the question again, this time with gestures to fill out broken phrases. Now the clerk catches on. “Ah! “ she thinks. “This is someone whose first language is not English. I’ll have to ad…

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Tired of Getting that Glazed-Eye Look from People who Don’t Understand Your Innovative Product?

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It’s not their fault. Most of us find it easier to politely stare and nod than we do to admit we’re completely confused. Asian cultures aren’t the only contexts in which people will go to great lengths to avoid “losing face.”

Nor is it your fault. You probably do a great job of describing, in detail, the ins and outs of your offering. I’m guessing that you’ve spent hours and hours working out your value proposition, analyzing your buyer personas, and developing a market-ready message.

The tr…

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