A Scientist With a Fascinating Story? Some Tips on How to Make it Soar

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by Marina Joubert, Stellenbosch University

It’s hard to pin down what makes one press release, statement or event more newsworthy than the next. Journalists use differing sets of news values to decide whether they’re interested in a specific story and must then convince their editors, whose titles face increasing competition in an information rich world.

Scientists must remember this when they consider public engagement. These researchers may believe they know what science news matters most and should be communicated. Then they’ll be dismayed at the muted media reaction to some news releases that they deem important – and equally surprised when a story they didn’t consider “big news” goes viral.

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When Politicians Listen to Scientists, We All Benefit

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by Ken Baldwin, Australian National University

The Trump administration has just confirmed the appointment of Scott Pruitt, a known climate change denier, as head of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Elsewhere, in 2014 the government in Sweden misrepresented research on the state of the wolf population to justify hunting them.

And in the United Kingdom in 2006, a parliamentary committee found that the government “twisted” science for political purposes. More recently, Nobel Laureate and Royal Society president Paul Nurse lamented politicians ignoring scientific evidence.

Are we seeing a shift in the way that some politicians use or misuse scientific expertise?

Science has evolved over many centuries to become an integral part of modern society, underpinning our health, wealth, and cultural fabric. Yet scientific evidence is often wilfully disregarded by politicians worldwide.

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Higher Ed Highlights #3: Stories for University Communications and Marketing Professionals

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Keeping up on higher education and Marcom trends is important for those of us working in university relations roles. I have started saving some of the stories that seem most relevant and/or interesting, archiving them here on marcommunique.com in a new series I call Higher Ed Highlights.

New editions of Higher Ed Highlights will be published as often as time permits. Let me know what you think. Continue reading

Seven Things to Keep in Mind if You’re Going to March for Science

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by Will J Grant, Australian National University and Rod Lamberts, Australian National University

On April 22 scientists around the world are downing microscopes, pipettes and lasers and declaring it’s time take a public stand and be counted. Standing shoulder to shoulder with their scientific kindred, they’ll raise fists to the sky, united with one voice and shouting “science is… [insert message here]!” The Conversation

The question is: what is the message?

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Higher Ed Highlights #2: Stories for University Communications and Marketing Professionals

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Keeping up on higher education and Marcom trends is important for those of us working in university relations roles. I have started saving some of the stories that seem most relevant and/or interesting, archiving them here on marcommunique.com in a new series I call Higher Ed Highlights.

New editions of Higher Ed Highlights will be published as often as time permits. Let me know what you think.


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Learn to Spot ‘Alternative Facts’ in Science

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The Volkswagen emissions scandal and past promotions of tobacco are two examples of “alternative facts” in science’s past, a researcher warns.

“In everyday life, we recognize that we should think twice about trusting someone’s decision if they have a significant vested interest that could skew their judgment,” says Kevin Elliott, an associate professor at Michigan State University who specializes in the philosophy and ethics of science. “When reading the latest scientific breakthrough, the same tactic should be applied.”

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Scientific Papers Have More Impact if They’re ‘Stories’

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by Futurity.com

An analysis of more than 700 scientific papers on climate change suggests writing style can boost an article’s impact.

The researchers’ idea was that papers written in a more narrative style—those that tell a story—might be more influential than those with a drier, more expository style. Psychology and literary theory have long held that if you want someone to remember something, you should communicate it in the form of a story.

Higher Ed Highlights #1: Stories for University Communications and Marketing Professionals

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If you are like me, each day your inbox gets flooded with eNewsletters from professional societies and other news sources. They include many stories that you would like to read, but you just don’t have the time…so you click delete.

Keeping up on higher education and Marcom trends is important for those of us working in university relations roles. I have started saving some of the stories that seem most relevant and/or interesting, archiving them here on marcommunique.com in a new series I call Higher Ed Highlights.

I will continue saving stories as I see them, publishing new editions of Higher Ed Highlights when I think a particular post has enough content to be valuable to readers of this blog.

Let me know what you think. Also, if you have suggestions for making this more useful as time goes on I would love to hear them.

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Communicating Climate Change: Focus on the Framing, Not Just the Facts

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by Rose Hendricks, University of California, San Diego

Humans are currently in a war against global warming. Or is it a race against global warming? Or maybe it’s just a problem we have to deal with?

If you already consider climate change a pressing issue, you might not think carefully about the way you talk about it – regardless of how you discuss it, you already think of global warming as a problem. But the way we talk about climate change affects the way people think about it.

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The SCICOMM 25 (Feb. 2017)

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Image (2) SCICOMM-25-300x280.png for post 1623Welcome To The SCICOMM 25!

This is where I pull together 25 (or more) of the most talked about science communication stories, determined by the engagement rate of stories I’ve shared on Twitter. Many are written by the world’s leading science communicators.

Some offer tips and advice, while others tackle important issues we need to discuss and debate. All of them are worth checking out.

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Your Essential ‘How-to’ Guide to Choosing Article Titles

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This article has been republished from the Impact on Social Sciences blog.

One of the key tasks for an article author who wants to be cited is to quickly persuade people to click on the title of their piece and learn more from the abstract or book outline and then from there to persuade them to download the whole article. Here we present a simple ‘how-to’ guide to choosing article titles.

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Rebranding a Research Institute: 6 Steps to Success

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problem-solvedWhether you’re a research institute seeking new grants or a university trying to recruit students, the messages you send to your stakeholders can make you – or break you.

If you spend time pushing out news releases and filling your website with content without thinking about how the pieces connect to tell a cohesive story, you’re missing a huge opportunity to build your reputation.

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Five Things I Learned When My Research Went Viral

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by Heidi Appel, University of Missouri-Columbia

We researchers all wonder whether reaching a broader audience for our academic work is worth the time and effort. Here’s a recent experience that may help you decide.

On July 1, 2014 I published a paper with Rex Cocroft showing that plants can identify vibrations caused by caterpillar chewing and respond with increased chemical defense. That day, The New York Times carried the story online; five days later a feature length story about our research appeared in the Washington Post; and a week later I did an interview with Robert Siegel on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

The story quickly developed a life of its own, getting picked up by newspapers internationally and by major online-only media outlets. Even Rush Limbaugh covered it (more on that later). When National Geographic put the story on their Facebook page July 10, it accumulated over 12,000 likes in four days. Within a month, over 4,300 media outlets had carried the story.

What happened to make this story go so far?

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How to Pitch to a Science Editor

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Successfully pitching a story to a science editor requires a wide range of skills, from researching their outlet to communicating with them in a professional way.

In this practical guide, we have compiled advice from six different science editors with extensive experience in commissioning pieces for a number of different outlets including Science, BBC Focus Magazine, New Scientist, the Mail and Guardian and SciDev.Net.

Following the advice in this guide will increase the chances of getting your story accepted by an editor. Some of this advice is specific to science journalism, but most is relevant to other types of journalism too.

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Online Science Communication and the Importance of Empathy 

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Guest Post by Nicole Miller-Struttmann, Laurence L. Browning Jr. Assistant Professor, Webster University (full bio below this post)

Science communication remains as challenging as it is necessary in the era of big data. Scientists are encouraged to reach out to non-experts through social media, collaborations with citizen scientists, and non-technical abstracts. As a science enthusiast (and extrovert), I truly enjoy making these connections and having conversations that span expertise, interests and geographic barriers. However, recent divisive and impassioned responses to the surprising election results in the U.S. made me question how effective these approaches are for connecting with the public.

Are we all just stuck in our own echo chambers, ignoring those that disagree with us?

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The SCICOMM 25 (Jan. 2017)

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Image (2) SCICOMM-25-300x280.png for post 1623Welcome To The SCICOMM 25!

This is where I pull together 25 (or more) of the most talked about science communication stories, determined by the engagement rate of stories I’ve shared on Twitter. Many are written by the world’s leading science communicators.

Some offer tips and advice, while others tackle important issues we need to discuss and debate. All of them are worth checking out.

Continue reading

What Does Research Say About How to Effectively Communicate About Science?

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by Andrew Maynard, Arizona State University and Dietram A. Scheufele, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Truth seems to be an increasingly flexible concept in politics. At least that’s the impression the Oxford English Dictionary gave recently, as it declared “post-truth” the 2016 Word of the Year. What happens when decisions are based on misleading or blatantly wrong information? The answer is quite simple – our airplanes would be less safe, our medical treatments less effective, our economy less competitive globally, and on and on.

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How Social Media Can Distort and Misinform When Communicating Science

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by Jacob Groshek, Boston University and Serena Bronda, Boston University

When news breaks – whether the story of a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or a natural disaster – people increasingly turn to the internet and social media. Individuals use Twitter and Facebook as primary sources for news and information. Social media platforms – including Reddit, Wikipedia and other emerging outlets such as Snapchat – are distinct from traditional broadcast and print media. But they’ve become powerful tools for communicating rapidly and without intermediary gatekeepers, like editors.

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Accurate Science or Accessible Science in the Media – Why Not Both?

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by Joshua Conrad Jackson, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; Ian Mahar, Boston University; Jaan Altosaar, Princeton University, and Michael Gaultois, University of Cambridge

Every day, millions of people take to search engines with common concerns, such as “How can I lose weight?” or “How can I be productive?” In return, they find articles that offer simple advice and quick solutions, supposedly based on what “studies have shown.”

A closer look at these articles, however, reveals a troubling absence of scientific rigor. Few bother to cite research or discuss studies’ methodologies or limitations. The authors seldom have scientific training.

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Here’s Why Academics Should Write for the Public

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by Jonathan Wai, Duke University and David Miller, Northwestern University

There’s been much discussion about the needless complexity of academic writing.

In a widely read article in The Chronicle of Higher Education last year, Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard and author of several acclaimed books including The Sense of Style, analyzed why academic writing is “turgid, soggy, wooden, bloated, clumsy, obscure, unpleasant to read, and impossible to understand.”

More recently, Jeff Camhi, professor emeritus of biology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, discovered how much academic authors struggle when trying to write for a lay audience. He suggested writing programs should “develop a night course in creative nonfiction writing, specifically for professors.”

We think learning to write creative nonfiction isn’t a bad idea. But we disagree with Camhi’s suggestion that academics need a night course for this. We propose something simpler: academics just need to start writing, getting edited and seeing if the public reads them. Through this process, academics will not only learn to express themselves clearly, but most likely become better scientists as well.

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Strategic Communication Sparks a Cyber Juggernaut

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Faceless computer hacker

Shutterstock: http://ow.ly/TWHSH

It’s neat when something you worked on five years earlier continues to grow like wildfire. That’s what’s happened at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), thanks to a strategic communication effort that captured the world’s attention. Continue reading

A Peek Inside the Pluto Public Relations Machine

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Guest and New Horizons team members countdown to the spacecraft's closest approach to Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Guest and New Horizons team members countdown to the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015, at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

They knew it was going to be huge, but even the communications team – which had spent months planning for the event – was surprised by the magical atmosphere and worldwide excitement surrounding NASA’s New Horizons Pluto flyby. Continue reading

Real Researchers Star in a University’s Creative TV Spot

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If you’ve ever watched a college football game, you’ve seen a university public service announcement (PSA) airing at halftime. You know the spots I’m talking about too. They usually feature a deep voiced male spouting off about commitment, excellence, and scholarship. They often include beautiful campus shots, maybe a peek inside a classroom, a scene in a lab, and maybe another with students doing something fun. And they always end with a university logo and an uninspired tagline.

At Georgia Tech, a lot of effort has been put into being different. Continue reading

Misadventures and Victories: An Unfiltered Look at Grad School in the Sciences

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Karl Smith and Maddie Sofia are Grad Students at the University of Rochester and Hosts of The Bench Warmers Podcast.

Karl J. P. Smith and Madeline Sofia are Grad Students at the University of Rochester and Hosts of The Bench Warmers Podcast.

Grad students dishing about the ‘misadventures and victories’ of a life in the sciences. Oooh! Sign me up!

Anyone who has gone to grad school knows there are plenty of mistakes to be made, and the victories…well, they’re all hard won. The Bench Warmers Podcast digs deep, with revealing interviews exploring the intense emotional and mental pressure grad students experience each day. It’s even been described as ‘grad school therapy.’ Continue reading

Broader Impact Statements: Are Researchers Thinking Broadly Enough?

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Shutterstock 210478717

I’m working on a project focused on helping Georgia Tech faculty access the information and support they may need to help write more effective broader impact statements for National Science Foundation grant proposals. I started this work by doing some research of my own to find out what resources currently exist, and if there are examples of best practices.

I came across an interesting masters thesis, written by Sarah Wiley of The Ames Laboratory. She took a deep dive into a stack of NSF grant proposals to see what researchers were actually proposing to meet the broader impact criterion. It seems many are simply listing the things they already do – like teach, present at conferences and publish papers. Continue reading

Communication Planning: Start By Looking in the Mirror

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shutterstock_111876380A CASE STUDY

Are you happy with what you see when you look in the mirror?

When I started working on the strategic communication and marketing plan for research at Georgia Tech, my first goal was to fully understand our internal audience. It’s really the most important audience, because without the support of your own people – any communication you do is bound to fail.

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Unraveling the Mysteries of Your Twitter Network

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(This piece was originally published on LinkedIn on December 3, 2014)

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  • How much do you know about your Twitter network?
  • How do you identify key influencers, find out what they’re interested in – and attract their attention?
  • How do you measure the interactions you can’t control?
  • Does follower count ‘really’ equal influence?

By Kirk Englehardt (@kirkenglehardt)

The magic of Twitter. It’s how I met Marc Smith (@marc_smith ), a sociologist specializing in the social organization of online communities and computer mediated interaction.

He grabbed my attention by sharing that I was a key influencer in the science communication twitter-verse, which came as a bit of a shock. I only joined Twitter two years ago…and I don’t even have 3,000 followers.

As I asked more questions, I learned much about how science communicators interact as a network on Twitter. I then I asked Marc to participate in this Q&A to help you uncover the mysteries of your own Twitter network. Schools, organizations, big brands and others will see value in this research. And it’s easy to do!

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A University Rethinks Research Communication

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3523b4e.pngToday my colleagues and I are proud to share the results of nearly a year of hard work, rethinking how we share interesting stories about the exciting research taking place at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

This is more than just a magazine redesign and a website launch. We’ve completely changed our approach to telling research stories, so they’re more understandable, compelling and impactful. Our efforts are also fully aligned with Georgia Tech’s research strategy and core research areas.

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What REALLY Happens When Researchers Work with the Press?

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Woman pointing a camera

Credit: PicJumbo

Over the past week, the Internet was abuzz following the publication of a study in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly (Building Buzz: (Scientists) Communicating Science in New Media Environments) which showed that a researcher’s scientific impact gets a boost from not only the news media but from Twitter too!

The study provides additional evidence to support what those of us working in science communication have been preaching for years – that public/news media outreach by scientists can have a direct (and very positive) impact on their work and reputation.

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What Makes a Popular Science Video on YouTube?

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A screenshot from one of the most popular science channels on YouTube – but what makes these videos so popular? YouTube/AsapScience

by Dustin Melbourne, UNSW and Will J Grant, Australian National University

Hundreds of hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and hundreds of millions of hours are viewed daily, including many that cover areas of science. Despite this, if you want to use YouTube for science communication, reaching an audience is not always guaranteed.

We’ve analysed nearly 400 science communication videos to understand what the successful YouTube science communicators do – those with numerous subscribers – that less successful communicators do not.

So, here are seven things we found that can help you to communicate science on YouTube.

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