I was listening to a presentation recently from Dr Dee Abimbola  talking about the brilliant work she is leading in Liverpool to support the development of dementia champions from black and ethic minority groups within the City. Dee used a term which resonated with me when she spoke about the importance of the champions speaking peoples’ “heart language”.

You know how some phrases you hear just grab your attention, make a connection and send your mind spinning off into another orbit? Well this one not only landed with me but distracted me. I’m sure the rest of the presentation was great but my mind had gone else where, pondering the possibilities of a heart language, wondering what one is and where the phrase came from.

Where would we be with search engines? Looking it up it is (of course) a quote from Nelson Mandela:

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language,that goes to his heart”

Which started me thinking about the heart language of researchers and the research community. What is the language that goes to our hearts? A language that goes to my heart as a researcher is one that touches fundamental values I hold about why research is important to me. This is not about the impact of my research on others it is something far more personal than that. It is about my relationship with it.

It isn’t the language I use in textbooks or academic papers, in fact when I think about it, it isn’t a language I use very often in public as it is subsumed and silenced by the conventions surrounding research, formal presentations and academic publishing. Why is that?

I am sure that all researchers have a research heart language and it is one that is given voice when the community comes together, not in the formal halls where presentations are given, but in the informal spaces where people meet to talk about new ideas, forge new collaborations or just share their experiences.

It appears, occasionally, when any researcher is asked to talk about why they do research. Even if you haven’t a clue what they are talking about, on such occasions, you will not only hear it but you will sense it.  It is a language that is bubbling to be freed and, on being given the right prompt, ‘tell me about your research’ bursts forth. You may also witness the moment when it is reigned in if it becomes apparent that language isn’t shared. If you are a researcher you will no doubt have caught yourself connecting with your heart language getting swept away by it and then seeing ‘the look’ on someone’s face as you realise it was a polite enquiry.

The heart language of research is exciting and driven by passion. There is a shift in dynamic, the pace picks up, the heart beats faster, the conversation becomes animated. The language is no longer about study design, statistics, data analysis it is the language of possibility, of deep connection, where the boundaries of new knowledge are stretched and the passion that drives researchers is voiced.

This is the language that energies and sustains us and the reason why anyone undertaking research values occasions when they come together as part of a community speaking to their heart language. I think it is also the language that needs a greater public voice if, as a community, we want to inspire others to engage with research.