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Jessica Chesher

Managing Editor

Innovation eReview
Observation: Reducing the Complex to the Graspable
by Molly Zimmermann

This summer three central New York physicists were challenged to offer an explanation of the Higgs Boson in the time it took for an elevator ride.  Alan Alda, working with the Stony Brook  recently created a challenge to explain what a flame is so students can understand it.  

The science and technology that is the subject of today’s commercialization work is often complex, building on a number of principals. The ability to explain complex science is key to the ability to partner, license, sell or obtain funding. However, many times the explanations are outside the vernacular of the people involved in commercializing the technology.  
One of the pillars of research projects completed at the NYSTAR/ESD sponsored NYS STLC is explaining the technology being considered such that a "lay person" can understand it. Law students and professors come from a variety of backgrounds and must tackle innovations in a multitude of scientific and technical fields. Without a clear understanding of the technology and how it is distinct from other innovations in its area, the research associates would be hard pressed to offer useful research and recommendations about the issues important to commercialization options for the new technology. 

While a good deal of the background comes from the inventor, it is important to be aware of the many resources available for understanding all kinds of science and technology. One source of this information comes from the NYSSTLC website under “RESEARCH LINKS” / “SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY RESOURCES”. Also under Law resources there is a link to the Technology Commercialization Internet Research Guide. This resource guide, created and updated by law students, provides helpful research links.

It is invariably the hallmark of wise people that they can take something very complex and make it accessible to all. Metaphors, power points, demonstrations or photographs are all good ways to make inventions and innovations real and set them in a context where their competitive advantage can be realized. The importance of this is recognized by the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.  Its website states that it: "works to enhance understanding of science by helping train the next generation of scientists and health professionals to communicate more effectively with the public, public officials, the media, and others outside their own discipline. We believe that scientists have a responsibility to share the meaning and implications of their work, and that an engaged public encourages sound public decision-making."

The ability to communicate directly and vividly can enhance scientists’ career prospects, helping them secure funding, collaborate across disciplines, compete for positions, and serve as effective teachers.

Are you able to explain the technologies you work with in lay terms?

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