Why Academics Need To Be Storytellers

"Mobilising and translating information is one of the most important things that we can do at the university". Speaking at the inaugural session of the PhDs Go Public Research Talk Series, Emmy Award-winner journalist and UBC faculty Peter Klein makes a call to scholars at all levels to be storytellers to elicit positive social change.

Combining his rich background in journalism with rigorous scholarship, Peter Klein is one of the most prominent public intellectuals in the UBC community.

Associate professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, where he was the director between 2011-2015, Professor Klein is the initiator of exciting projects such as the International Reporting Program (now transitioning into a non-profit, the Global Reporting Centre -GRC). As part of GRC, his recently launched initiative Strangers at Home documents the growing feelings of xenophobia in Europe.

Joining as a guest speaker to "Storytelling for Positive Social Change", the first session of the PhDs Go Public Research Talk Series, Professor Klein pointed to the public responsibility of academics to make their work accessible and meaningful for broader audiences.

Highlights from Peter Klein's Talk
  • "The best scholars that I've met really know how to do their high level scholarship, but also know how to translate that information [...] Mobilising and translating information is one of the most important things that we can do at the university".
  • "We're supported by public funds [...] and what is the public getting from that? It's a question that the public has been increasingly asking [...] Storytelling is one of the ways to explain what we do, and to translate our work as scholars".
  • "Among journalists, there's still an inherent hostility against academics [...] That's partly because academics have traditionally done a very very bad job at storytelling. We don't do a good job of explaining what we're doing, and why we're doing it, and our findings in a compelling way".
  • "If collectively the academic community were to do a better job, I think the impressions of the work we'd do [...] would soften, and they'd appreciate the incredibly important work that's done at this university and other universities".
  • "I think [public scholarship] is critically important not just for getting your word out, but for keeping this institution alive [...] One of the best ways to do that is storytelling".
Friday, 20 November 2015