Getting the Message Across – Communications Workshop – September 2016 Edinburgh Biannual

This blog was written by Xuesong Lu, Xin Yang, Peng Xie (all University of Sheffield), and Kehinde Fayemiwo (Loughborough University), who received funding from the ECR Meeting Fund to attend the UKCCSRC Autumn 2016 Biannual Meeting in Edinburgh, 14-15 September.

Group 1 (Xuesong Lu, Xin Yang)

The facilitators of this group were Kirsty Anderson (Global CCS institute) and Heather Rea (Beltane Public Engagement network). The activities in this group include introduction of communalisation toolkit and common challenges of CCS communalisations, discussion of ice breaker, call project presentation practice, constructive communications feedback to the presentation and wrap-up and summary. Firstly, Kirsty talked about the importance of CCS should be recognised and acknowledged but the message is not yet always hitting home. The challenges of CCS are complexity of the technology, misperception of not safe storage, and lack of understanding about energy and climate change and so on. So for good communication, the researchers should know their audiences. The aim is to pitch their communication at the level of an intelligent 12 years old. If researchers can communicate their research with them, researchers can communicate their research to anyone, e.g. public, funders, policy makers and government. The researchers also need to demonstrate the viability, applicability, transferability and necessity of CCS technologies to the public. Afterwards, as a test of ice breaker, we took random objects such as plastic cup, pen or paper in the middle of each tables and tried to make it related to CCS. In the following, Dr Sascha Serno from University of Edinburgh gave us a presentation on quantifying residual and dissolution trapping in the CO2CRC Otway injection site. After the presentation, attenders gave some feedbacks for the presentation. Some of feedbacks are : 1) Presentations should be understandable for audiences who are not familiar with the research area, so it can be better to use less technical terms; 2) Presentation can provide information for the introduction that can be easily understood and informative; 3) Presenter should be confident at the content and can include the information of the publication related to the presentation, so audiences can refer to it and the presentation may be more credible than that without publications. Finally, Kirsty summarized the group activities.

We think that we benefit a lot from attending this session. Through this workshop, the feedback from audiences enables us to learn how to present our research at a conference and how to make our research to be understood by audiences who are not familiar with our research. It is not easy to make audiences without much background in the research field to have a good understand of new technologies through presentations. As participants in the workshop, we understand that presentation skills are very significant to facilitate the technologies in the presentation to be better understood by audiences. When we prepare the presentation, we need to take into consideration of not only the background of the audience, but also use less technical terms and less difficult sentences or words for audiences. In addition, when we present, we should be confident and clear about our content in the presentation. In general, a better introduction of the CCS technologies to people who are not familiar with them can help us to get a better support from the public and governments.

As researchers of CCS, we should transmit the information of safe CO2 storage and progress of new technology on CCS to public and make everyone notice the importance of CCS and give their hands to combat the globe warming and climate changing.

Group 2 (Peng Xie)

As a researcher in the field of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), we have a deep understanding of its importance. However, most of people, from young to old, are unfamiliar with it. It is our responsibility to make dissemination to public about CCS because this work needs people’s understanding and support. Sometimes, it is difficult to introduce a new technology to people who have different education or background, through professional expression. For example, you cannot introduce CCS to a school pupil using technical terms. Therefore, obtaining some communication skills is necessary for us to introduce our work to others without being misunderstood.

Fortunately, I have the chance to attend the “Getting the message across” workshop. This workshop provided us a good opportunity to learn presentation skills when introducing our research to others. First of all, the facilitators told several short stories about the common challenges that we always meet during the CCS communications. And then, they gave us 10 minutes as the ice-breaker time. People were divided into several small groups and in each group everyone took a random, everyday object on the table to incorporate it into a simple explanation of CCS or related it to the importance of low-carbon energy technologies to the rest of the group members. This is a good activity that can stimulate our creativities. Then two lecturers made the call project presentation practice. The first presentation was about “Mixed matrix membranes preparation for post-combustion capture”. It was given by Nicholas Bryan from University of Edinburgh. The second presentation was about “CO2 Flow Metering through Multi-Modal Sensing and Statistical Data Fusion”, which was presented by Jinyu Liu from University of Kent. After the two presentations, we had a relatively long time to discuss their presentations and then everyone gave them some constructive feedbacks and suggestions. Finally, all the suggestions were summarized by the facilitators.

As a participant in this workshop, I was fully aware of the importance of public speaking skills. For example, before making a presentation we should know fairly well about the composition of the audience, and change our emphasis of the presentation according to the audience’s background. CCS involves too much disciplines, such as in this UKCCSRC biannual meeting, although the attendees are related to CCS, they have various background. Some people concentrate on the policy analysis or economic analysis while others pay attention to the technical research. Nobody can be experts of all the disciplines. Therefore we should introduce our work in a straightforward method. I think everyone in the workshop can get benefits from the activities and the discussions. The two presenters upgraded their slides and changed their presentation patterns, which obtained better impact on the next day’s formal presentation. The “Getting the message across” workshop is really a meaningful part of the conference.

Group 4 – Kehinde Fayemiwo

The importance of CCS cannot be underestimated as it is generally agreed by scientists and researchers globally that a decrease in CO2 emissions into the air is greatly desired.  However, to achieve this, we need to get the message across to all. Often times, there are challenges in passing the message across to a lay man, that has no understanding of the basic technology involved. Therefore, we need to develop our communication skill so we can be a good marketer of our products, and even a little boy of seven years old would be able to understand the message we are trying to pass across.

I was privileged to be part of the session “Getting the message across” during the Edinburgh biannual meeting. This session provided me an opportunity to learn and develop good communication skills, especially in getting the CCS messages across for it to be fully acknowledged and understand even by a lay man. It was really a great eye opener to me. During the session, we discussed the major challenges regarding lack of understanding of the need of CCS such as:

  • Misperception – it doesn’t work
  • Complexity of the work
  • Complexity of the language
  • Lack of visual imagery
  • It’s expensive
  • Lack of awareness of importance to industry
  • Lack of understanding about energy and climate change

We had a beautiful deliberation over these for few minutes, after which we were divided into four groups. In each group everyone will pick any object randomly and try to relate it with CCS technology. These activities really stimulate my way of thinking and perception, thus bringing creativity out of me. This was followed by a presentation on ‘Performance of flow meters with dense phase CO2 and CCS recovery stream’, after which we all made positive contributions to the presentation. The presenter was encouraged to always try to explain the CCS technology in a way the public would be able to understanding. Finally, the facilitators summarized the contributions, thus, we were encouraged to always have our target audience in mind whenever we have a presentation, and should be able to communicate our research so that we will be able to get the message across. I loved every minute of the session, it was exciting and added knowledge. Really, since then, my orientation has changed, as this has greatly added a value to me as CCS ECR. A big thanks to UKCCSRC!

***The final presentations used by the presenters the next day and the workshop presentations from the facilitators can be found on the event’s webpage.***