I’m waiting for my turn backstage. It will begin in 30 seconds. The assistant counts down 4, 3, 2, 1 Now. I step on stage. I know that I’ll have exactly three minutes to present my research to the hundreds of people attending Slush. Lights dazzle my eyes, and I begin my pitch on conserving the world’s wetlands. After three minutes my microphone will be switched off. Someone might wonder why a biologist is attending Slush: an event for start-ups, investors and policymakers.
We all probably have a stereotypical image of a researcher/scientist in our heads. For most of us a researcher may be a senior male in a dusty room filled with books, papers and research materials. This image is not so far from the truth, because only 10% of the 300 most famous scientist of all time are women, and most of them have been influential only during recent decades.
But we are living in the 21st century. It is time to shake the dust away from these old assumptions and build an image of the 21st century scientist/researcher. Scientist nowadays face new challenges in their work. Our societies are changing and becoming more effective, and research must concurrently follow the same path.
Universities and financing have transformed in recent years in Finland, which has created not only challenges and reforms, but hopefully new opportunities as well. The Finnish government has cut down on the funding allocated for universities, so researchers are forced to find new ways of funding our principle purpose: research. Without research we don’t develop new innovation, and in addition, we can’t fulfill a basic human need: the thirst for knowledge.
This thirst for knowledge is probably stronger in researchers than humans in general, and possibly the reason why we have chosen our profession. We researchers must still remember that many of us get our salary from public funding. Our jobs allow us to do what we love, not only for ourselves but also for the common good, and because of this it is our duty to communicate and report the results we get, instead of leaving them to just gather dust on our desks. Our principle purpose is to create new information, from which new innovation and development come into the world. But increasing information aka research is just a part of our job. We also need to assure that this new information is reachable by everyone. Last spring I heard a disturbing idea: “What if we already have solutions for every single problem in the world, but they are just in the form of dusty reports on researchers’ desks.”
As 21st century researchers we have to fight against this thought, and if anything strive to communicate our result in channels as versatile as possible. This is why I as a biologist took part in the first ever Slush Science Pitching Competition. I saw the event as a possibility of increasing the awareness of companies, investors and policymakers of our existence. Researchers shouldn’t be intimidated of presenting in different and versatile occasions, but should rather see them as opportunities to touch, anneal our amazing work, and deliver information to everyone.