TWEETS© Mètode

«There is very little literature in a poster. Just enough to make your work understood in a limited space»

It could be named MUSA: Minimal Unit of Scientific Activity. Long before publishing an article it is possible to share the results of some experiments in a formal context. Often, these results are preliminary and many of them will never be dealt with again. Perhaps, they would need so much additional work that, in the pubished final version, we won’t find a trace of what was in the poster. It is usually the first experience of a public report of results for unexperienced scientists, an invitation for discussion with strangers. A sort of initiation rite.
However, looking at it carefully, there is very little literature in a poster. Just enough to meet the requirements —make your work understood in a limited space. Posters lead nowhere unless they have a powerful visual support: pictures, graphs, diagrams and any other element that helps making the message clear. In some cases, virtually all of the poster’s surface is filled with images and their captions, while the written message is minimized to a brief summary and a conclusion. Communcation is basically a matter of image.

Then, which is the role of literature in these A0 presentations? Is there room for creativity and talent? I think there is . A poster needs concision. A well-written summary will be more enlightening than a summary written without care. An inspiring title will stand out more than just any title. The thread of development has to catch our attention and emphasize the importance of the images. After all, the image is only a support for the message, not the message in itself.
This the weak spot of the poster as a genre. It is a very common mistake to beleive that an image put under a heading of results is enough to explain a scientific result. The relagation of literature to a secondary role is the downfall of many posters which, with more effort put to the wording of the text, could have a greater communicative power.
And where do we learn to do this? Where does someone learn to be clear with very few words? Maybe on Twitter. If it is possible to rewrite Crime and Punishment or Moby Dick in less than 20 tweets, there is no excuse for not applying the same discipline of concision to investigation results. It is only a matter of time for new communication habits to integrate themselves in the humblest postion of the communicative chain of science.

Alexander, A. i E. Rensin, 2009. Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter. Penguin. London.

© Mètode 2012 - 72. Online only. Beloved Botany - Winter 2011/12
Biologist and writer (Barcelona).