Dissemination of results is part of the process of scientific research that puts new ideas to test and, at the same time, makes them part of professional discourse. When publishing research, we communicate with peers who understand our way of expression, even if our mother tongues are different and we have to resort to a language we have mastered to varying degrees. The style of scientific communication among professionals in the same field is concise, accurate and focused. (In descriptive zoology, scientific dialect is deprived even of the use of the English substantive verb.) In communicating about science, we often use abbreviations (an obvious example is the periodic table of elements), we resort to a terminus technicus to spare an explanation and use a combination of letters to indicate complex chemical compounds. Formulae in mathematics and chemistry replace long textual explanations.
Scientific visualisations are graphic interpretations of research results. They appear on conference posters and presentations and represent facts and data in novel, expressive, but sometimes ambiguous forms. In conference presentations or in a book, these graphs and charts are intriguing supplements of verbal information. Researchers (or designers helping them) are very inventive when designing their posters: they often use puns and gags, sometimes even involve the third dimension and attach real objects to images. Bold, large lettering, colourful photographs, diagrams and other forms of imaging call attention to new results.
What if experts have to communicate science to laypeople? They are often unable (or unwilling) to alter their professional mode of expression and keep on using abbreviations and phrases that no one outside their area of study is likely to understand. The use of Latin and Greek words is also an inhibiting factor as these languages are no longer part of the knowledge base even of university graduates. There are two reasons for the use of these phrases: scientists find them natural, and, in many languages, these phrases have no exact translations. Moreover, laypeople tend to find a presentation more “scientific” and trustworthy when the speaker uses words the audience has not heard before.
If we intend to show results of scientific research, we should use simple explanatory language and visualisations to represent important data. Didactic interpretation should be our guiding principle. Utilising genres of scientific communication is well-known from the media: illustrated, short texts, picture sequences with catchy captions or film strips as teasers are important for our audience to be able to understand sophisticated messages. Learning styles of visitors (be it verbal, visual, kinetic-multimodal or mixed) should also be considered.
The next images show the presentation of body structures of animals – an exhibition development problem solved in a variety of different forms by developers around the world.
The environment may alter the meaning of an exhibited object completely. Sometimes long texts are replaced by a short and catchy phrase that conveys the meaning in a more expressive manner. We give examples of both exhibition arrangements in the following pictures.
Multisensory exhibition solutions may serve the purposes of a variety of didactic interpretations. They are extremely beneficial for promoting a deeper understanding of natural processes. Museums are on the lookout for new exhibition ideas and sometimes even copy successful solutions from one another. In the pictures below we provide an overview of such solutions in different collections.