Scientific communication – science posters

Research communication is key, it is so important to be able to explain what you have done in a way that ANYBODY can understand it.

Earlier this year the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Science held a poster competition, if you placed in the top 20  in the faculty competition you went on to a university wide competition – Exposure.

I decided to enter as usually when I go to conference I see it as an opportunity for me to present my research in form of a talk, as this is an area I personally would like more experience in. The faculty poster competition presented an opportunity to ‘finish off’ a paper I had recently published and to reinforce some skills needed to make a poster. Honestly though, the biggest draw card for me was that I get to be more arty/creative – yay!

As the faculty competition could be seen as the preliminary round to the university wide competition, I decided that I would have that in mind when creating my poster – i.e. I am not creating a poster for fellow scientists, so the audience was automatically broader.

I placed with high distinction (4th to 6th place) along with two other fellow scientists, in the faculty of science competition.

  Sep 17
Congratulations to all the winners of the poster competition at the postgraduate research showcase, especially our postgrads from SBS!

This was a great and my poster was automatically going through to the university wide competition. I did not think much of placing at this competition, but there was a people’s choice award up for grabs and so you could get your friends to vote – to social media! I was pretty happy the response I was receiving on social media and the number of people who had voted and so thought I may have a chance after all.

The prize giving was held and was a great opportunity to mingle with people you would never otherwise meet and hear about their research, which for the most part is just as interesting as your own. The names were called for 3rd and 2nd place and I thought the definitely knew who the winner was – there was a very cool poster explaining a physicists work – next thing my name was called, wait… WHAT?!

L to R: Matthew Kang, Andrew Chen, James Hucklesby, Aimee van der Reis, Hayden Green
I think I like my scampi more now… P.S. I didn’t win People’s Choice, but social media is a great tool for communication!!!

Most unexpected and I would like to think that it was due to my approach that my poster was not aimed at faculty level, but at faculty wide level. I went in with the mind frame that anybody must be able to understand what I did in my research and not turn away due to too many unfamiliar terms.



So some tips:

  • A1 poster – font Arial (keep it simple) – hint, can you read it if printed on A4?
    • title 60 pt
    • authors 36 pt
    • institutions 28 pt
    • headings 32 pt – note this is where I used the standard read from left to right ‘boring’ format, but the headings were in theme with my posters and more of a menu layout (well that is how I like to think of it).
    • text 28 pt
    • figure descriptions and corresponding author contact details 24 pt
    • things that need to be there, but nobody is likely to read it 20 pt
    • text font could have been a bit bigger, but I was already struggling to get what I wanted to say in at pt 28 – this is a good way to make sure you are selective and only say what you really deem necessary. Remember people aren’t going to know what is not there and if they are really interested in the entire study my QR code links to my article.
  • I tried to include simple figures that would make the reader interested and explained things in a easy-to-digest manor. The figure 2 in my case even explained the results further.
  • My chef scampi – simple and conveys what the poster is about, what do they eat??? This is the more creative side, when was the last time I decided to draw something?!
  • Ask friends to read over it, especially if they are not in your field of research! Can they understand it and what are their suggestions?
  • Do you know what the judges will be looking for?
  • Posters take time, do not leave it until the night before.
    1. The content has to be of academic standard, find that balance between the simplicity and complexity of your research.
    2. Think about the design and experiment with different layouts.
    3. Most importantly does your research appeal to a broad audience?
  • For anyone interested

Good luck!