People in this Country have had enough of Experts

Written by Dr Amy Birch, Research Staff Development Consultant 

Whatever you think of this quote, it’s undeniable that public scorn of ‘facts’ has had a major influence in policy and voting over the last few years. And yet, more academics are engaging with policymakers and MPs than ever before. We’re part of the initial discussion but never make it to the final argument and decision-making process. This, in part, has to do with the significant differences in communication in the academic field and political sphere – often we perceive that ‘selling something’ is a way of lying or manipulating facts whereas policy-makers are frustrated by academics relying on facts and data rather than giving their opinion. But persuasive arguments and good oratory need to appeal to both our rational and emotional side.

Learning how to debate can teach you skills that you may not be able to learn anywhere else – not just how to construct an argument, but how to think on your feet (and change your argument on the hoof), respect your audience, gauge emotion, and how to be persuasive and amiable (but not patronising). It will improve your public speaking skills and your ability to answer questions under pressure – something all academics have experience of! Not only that, but it encourages you to see the both sides of each argument as you can often be debating for a position that you personally oppose.

In the Research Staff Event on 5th September, you will get a unique opportunity to learn and practise your debating skills on a topic that can have a valid and significant impact on your life at King’s. We have chosen the topic ‘This house believes that King’s listens to its research staff’ to give you the opportunity to voice a reasoned argument about what you believe King’s are doing well to support research staff and also present arguments about what King’s can do to improve their support of research staff. This will be a debate amongst your peers – but we encourage you to use this opportunity to be open about your experiences and give constructive, reasoned opinions about what we can do better. Over the last year, the Centre for Research Staff Development have worked hard to support you with your professional development at King’s – by taking part in this debate you can let us know how we’re doing and what more we can do.

Participating in this debate will help you see the power of using rational, reasoned arguments and compelling evidence. It can instil a sense of poise and confidence and learn the skills of researching, organising, and presenting information in a compelling fashion. It will help you develop effective speech composition and delivery, and is an excellent skill to gain as a future leader.

For more information, please check out our Research Staff Event website and register to take part!

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