Phil De Luna, Director, Natural Research Council - How scientists can use story to maximize impact
Play • 28 min

Scientists need to be able to tell the story of their work if they want to get grants, engage collaborators, shift policy or generate new knowledge. Unfortunately, that’s not something they learn to do in school. And that’s a problem for all of us, because the world needs to know about the incredible research being done, if we want to solve some of our most complex issues.

Dr. Phil De Luna understands this need and has embedded storytelling across his work to help him generate consensus and maximize his impact. As a world-leading clean energy expert, he’s one of Forbes Top 30 under 30, a Carbon XPrize Finalist, carbontech co-founder and manager of a $57 million dollar project at the National Research Council of Canada. In this episode, he shares the story strategies and tactics behind his success.

A “Filipino kid” who grew up watching the decline of the auto industry in Windsor, Ontario, Phil learned how to connect with others through story early in life, consuming Harry Potter novels and finding his voice in drama club. As he launched his materials science career in university, he began to weave creative and self-reflective practices into his research to define both his brand and his purpose. Investing time to develop and understand his own story – to get clear on who he is and what he wants to achieve – has paid off in his ability to earn recognition and opportunities. That includes publishing in the esteemed journals Science and Nature, serving as a member of the OECD Advanced Materials Steering Committee and winning the Governor General’s Gold medal. 

As we explore his story practice, Phil shares practical tips to help scientists who might be uncomfortable with stories find ways to experiment with them to increase their impact. He also emphasizes that science storytelling isn’t about convincing or selling. Rather, it focuses on being able to make sense of or distill the problem being addressed in the research, so that scientists can share it to engage diverse audiences. 

This episode is a favourite – packed with useful insights and a-ha moments from Phil – highly recommended for experts who want to expand their influence to have a listen.

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