So Much Information - So Little Uptake

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

The amount of information that floods us every day is enormous and that volume is growing exponentially. The information superhighway moves over 35 terabits of data per minute. The abundance of data is a good thing in terms of new research possibilities and quantifying complex, multi-dimensional constructs. But there is so much information it has become incredibly challenging to process, document and optimally curate the data. Big science is getting a better handle on curation frameworks and algorithms able to learn from vast amounts of data; but there is way too much information to be absorbed by any single disciplines, much less an individual.

The purpose of research dissemination is to make a difference on social, economic and policy areas; but, there is a big gap between the (evidence-based) knowledge that exists and what is known in practice, policy settings and, moreover, by the public. Research is only useful when it can be accessed, understood and applied. This translation gap is largely related to the way that information is pushed out.

The way research is dispersed tends to be through traditional academic channels – scientific meetings and journal articles. While these are important methods of dissemination, they do not allow for a broad uptake. A tremendous amount of data and research findings remain stuck within disciplinary siloes.

When we break it down, research dissemination is basically communication. If we want to convey findings broadly, we have to think about who we want to benefit from the information. If we decide we want someone beyond elite disciplinary-specific academics to receive and believe the information, we must recognize that different approaches are needed for different audiences. What works amongst scholars who use the same discipline jargon and already have a sophisticated understanding of a particular construct is not going to be work for everyone else. Communication needs to take into account practical facets like current knowledge level, language and jargon exceptions as well as preferred learning channels. How can the information resonate with the audience? In other words, the medium is the message.

In this age of information overload, if we want broader participation in lthe earning and acceptance of empirical information, we will need radically new platforms that can mediate complexity and disciplinary jargon to really engage the public. We need to think about way to target and tailor content to make difficult and polarizing concepts more accessible, engaging and relevant.

Research shows that participation in art installations enhances the retention of scientific information in long-term memory and thus can be considered a viable method for the conveyance of science in an engaging, reliable, and memorable way. Further, artists and scientists make for a good team for scientific, humanistic and aesthetic discourse, boundary spanning and knowledge dissemination.

Crosscutting platforms that promote art and science collaboration within multisensory environments offer new hope for new cross-pollination of ideas and the compelling dissemination of powerful data-driven narratives able to inspire transformative learning and drive social change.

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