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28 April 2017
DRUSSA Fables: A series of metaphors and parables Print
Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00
The use of metaphors and parables in science communication is well established – by constructing a narrative around an idea or event that has little to do with science, much can be said about science. Metaphors are particularly useful in communicating scientific results to non-subject specialists, since the narrative carrying a metaphor can be highly entertaining, thus making it easy for the message to be absorbed.
Senior Researcher at CREST Dr Nelius Boshoff has used metaphors and parables to illustrate four topics in a series of blogs. These have now been collated into one document, DRUSSA Fables, that can be downloaded from the DRUSSA Document Index.
In Fable I, Winemakers, trains and knowledge, the metaphor of a train station is used to convey findings of a survey of winemakers’ information sources. Standard communications of survey results (e.g. X% of this and Y% of that) often make for dull reading. However, in this blog, the focus is on the description of the workings of a large railway station, with survey results merely “slipped” in.
Having said that, metaphors do not apply only to the communication of research findings. They can also be used to convey certain insights regarding practices of Research Uptake. For instance, Fable II, Practitioners are alive and well on Planet P, emphasises the value practitioners place on their own and their colleagues’ pools of knowledge, against the backdrop of increasing demands for evidence-based practice. Here, the message is conveyed through the metaphor of science and practice being from two different planets. 
In Fable III, the heart-warming tale of Mama Scientist’s dancing daughter, the metaphor gets almost totally lost in the plot as the story takes on a life of its own. Only after reading the final paragraph does the message become apparent: Scientists need to allow their findings to leave the nest to serve a greater cause. 
In the fourth and final fable, the cheeky Muscles and bling, insights are shared regarding present-day pressures to demonstrate “value for money” for research. Project evaluations and impact assessments have become a reality for many scientists and they need to “build muscles and show off bling” if they are to attract even more funding.
Download DRUSSA Fables from the DRUSSA Document Index.