The importance of scientific communication is growing, but unfortunately, it is rather an individual activity. What channels are the best, how universities could improve the situation, or why is the key to knowing the audience? Follow the article to unpack these questions.

Scientific communication is gaining popularity. Besides social media, current dynamic times contribute to it, as we have covered in the interview with Agnieszka Defus, science communicator of Jagiellonian University. In this post, we are returning to this topic and providing you with the scientific communication experiences from HES-GEO partners.

Obligation VS hobby

The motivation to jump into scientific popularization differ. While in projects that get external funding is such an activity an obligation, at the individual level, it is instead a calling to let other people know about relevant findings.

Nowadays, it is easy to start with the popularization via social media, university-based websites or various popular events organized by universities. Unfortunately, such activities are not yet considered an integral part of research but are perceived as something extra. Missing incentives to focus on popularization is thus an opportunity for universities to improve the situation.

It is not about the training only

Although training focused on writing and editing helps improve scientific communication, it is not everything. As our colleagues said, instructions and tips on which media to contact and how are helpful practices.

But besides that, extra funding for popularization beyond journals could improve the situation and motivate researchers for their research to be seen.

Knowing your audience

The most popular channels for scientific communication belong not only to university websites, press releases or op-ed pieces in newspapers but also on social media. Both have their advantages and drawbacks.

Twitter and LinkedIn are great tools to build a community around a specific topic and attract people beyond academia with the same interest. The standard newspapers, especially their online outlets, help get a local impact and gain a wide reputation. Notably, if it is the case of actual and appealing content, as we have witnessed, for example, during the covid-19 outbreak.

There are also voices that scientific communication is contra productive if the research has not reached significant milestones. Here it comes down to the aim of popularization and our audience.

If the purpose is to solely communicate the results, then yes. In this scenario, developing a popularization strategy based on specific outcomes shared via different channels makes sense. For example, op-ed pieces, podcasts and interviews.

In case the aim is to popularize academia as such and show others what happens before the eureka moment, we have to disagree with that claim. For many, using Twitter and blogs to share day-to-day research challenges is the way to go.

Systematic support is a must

However, to do all this, we cannot focus solely on a few individual researchers that feel the urge to tell others what they are doing. Universities should develop a platform so individual scientists could learn the different writing styles and popularization strategies or simply find a contact to help them connect with the right audience to share the work. Luckily, things are changing in this direction.