TED Talks for researchers


Lyn Lavery The end of winter feels like it’s dragging on this year, and I’ve been feeling a little uninspired as a result. One of the things I love about research is that it involves building on the experiences and knowledge of others. So when I need a burst of inspiration, it’s probably not surprising that I hunt around the Ted Talks archive for some insight from other researchers. If you’re in need of some inspiration yourself, here’s what I’ve been watching…

Why truly innovative science demands a leap into the unknown / Uri Alon

A charming and inspiring talk about creatively solving the problems we face as researchers – if you only watch one of these videos, this is the one to watch. Whether you’re a doctoral student with data that isn’t panning out the way you hoped, or a supervisor feeling bewildered about how to get the most from your students, this talk has something for you.

In science, we just learn about the results, not the process … We all studied science as if it’s a series of logical steps between question and answer, but doing research is nothing like that.

Uri Alon

The power of vulnerability / Brené Brown

This is one of my all-time favourite Ted Talks – the qualitative researchers out there will really love the way she talks about her research at the beginning. There’s a useful bigger picture message here when she gets into the findings of her research, but if you’re just after some research inspiration, watch until around the halfway mark.

I have a bachelor’s and a master’s in social work, and I was getting my PhD in social work, so my entire academic career was surrounded by people who kind of believed in the "Life’s messy, love it." And I'm more of the, "Life's messy, clean it up, organise it and put it into a bento box."

Brené Brown

The happy secret to better work / Shawn Achor

A hilarious talk from Shawn Achor with some brilliant one-liners about quantitative data. Similar to the Brené Brown talk, there’s a bigger picture message here about the power of positive thinking, but it’s a message that we could probably do with remembering next time our research doesn’t go to plan!

The first thing I want to do is start with a graph … There is one red dot above the curve … That’s no problem, as most of you know, because I can just delete that dot. I can delete that dot because that’s clearly a measurement error. And we know that’s a measurement error because it’s messing up my data

Shawn Achor

Why data should be over-the-counter / Jenny Rankin

A great talk on the importance of effectively communicating and understanding data, and the impact that this can have on our lives. It certainly made me think about the way I present my own data. It has a slight quantitative leaning, but the principles of design could be applied to qualitative as well.

If intelligent people can’t understand data, something’s wrong with the way the data is being shown to them.

Jenny Rankin

Why you should love statistics / Alan Smith

A surprisingly funny talk that explores the mismatch between what we think we know, and what we actually know. If you’re a researcher who dislikes statistics, this talk by Alan Smith might just inspire you, and force you to think again about including some quantitative data in your next project.

Numbers can inspire us all. They can surprise us all. So very often, we talk about statistics as being the science of uncertainty. My parting thought for today is: actually, statistics is the science of us. And that’s why we should be fascinated by numbers.

Alan Smith

If the above talks have inspired you to take another look at how you analyse and present your own data, don’t forget that we have a range of training courses that can help.