Sheldon Cooper and the Jungle Flight
It was a bit weird to start here at kothes and to have the feeling of having landed in research again. Suddenly, not a day went by without research and knowledge, and you were surrounded by a bunch of academics – since Sheldon Cooper’s * popularity I dare say “nerds”. At least that’s what I thought at first.
But pretty soon it became clear that the very nerdness that makes Sheldon so special, namely his life in an ivory tower, his losing himself in his own specialization, without understanding for other branches, branches of science and people, is not to be found here. For example, I met Michael, our bio- and chemical expert, and asked whether the accumulation of hazardous substances should not also play a role in a special safety notice. Surprisingly, his answer was not excessive, because instead of a detached monologue about hazardous substances and safety instructions as such, he asked the specific question: “Would that make sense for the target group and the purpose of the instruction?
I’ll leave the answer out, but the question immediately made it clear to me: the focus here is not on the information, but on the person to whom the information is directed. This is a downright audacious approach in research. However, the highly specialised scientific language, which makes it difficult for non-experts to access the information, is admittedly useful and its use comprehensible. Because this technical language is precise and is only addressed to a small circle of people: everyone who reads research reports is a researcher himself and then usually in the same research area. However, there are always exceptions where research and development breaks out of its circle and wants to open up to others, and by this I do not only mean the door-opening day of the “Sendung mit der Maus”. Even when it comes to federal and state funding, it is attractive to make yourself understood, or if you want to train your employees or simply sell your product. In such cases text outsourcing can save time and nerves.
Before I came to kothes, I once had the task of explaining to citizens the research projects on civil security funded by the Federal Ministry and supporting the researchers in writing their funding applications and research reports. In the process, I learned that even top-class scientists and heads of development in industry do not necessarily find it easy to communicate their achievements in an understandable way. It can be extremely helpful to approach the matter with the practiced and benevolent eye of an interested outsider in order to achieve the goal. Whether or not an outsider is also an outsider in the same field is not the most important thing. It is more important to have practice in working on the meta-level. Yes, meta-level – you have certainly been there before. That is also where the metadata live. It’s not quite as windless as in a hot-air balloon, but you have a similarly good view. You take up a higher position and thus move away from all disturbing details. You virtually fly over the corn maze and suddenly you can easily see where the way out is. Put five children in the jungle for five minutes and ask them what the jungle looked like. The answers will vary greatly. Then put them in a hot-air balloon over the jungle and the answers will probably be: “green”, “big” and “full of trees” – and everyone knows immediately what is meant. I doubt Sheldon would ever get in that balloon.
Fortunately, here at kothes, people meet up there on the meta-level as a matter of course to address a wide variety of customer concerns, whether scientific, regulatory or in-house. You eat cake, drink coffee together and chat with Michael about superheroes. The career changers Katharina has blogged about so beautifully have started playing foosball tournaments up there. And if you don’t believe that now, then you’re welcome to drop by!
*Fictional character of the TV series “Big Bang Theory”