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Neuroscience 11 17


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Presentation to the Kavli Neurosciences Innovators group, 11/30/17

Published in: Science
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Neuroscience 11 17

  1. 1. Communicating about Research & Discovery Kara Gavin, M.S. Lead Public Relations Representative, Michigan Medicine Dept. of Communication Policy & Research Media Relations, U-M IHPI News media, social media & beyond
  2. 2. Who am I?• Member of Michigan Medicine Dept. of Communication • Trained in biology, science writing & journalism • 20+ years’ experience publicizing research (U-M, BNL) • Find & tell stories • Handle news media inquiries • Push stories out any way I can What do I do?
  3. 3. Why does U-M* have staff like me? • our institution’s work should reach people who care • U-M expertise can have impact • taxpayers & policymakers who fund research need to know what they’re paying for • most Americans need science/medicine translated • it’s easier than ever *and lots of other places too Because…
  4. 4. What do they know about science? • 71% extremely/very confident: mental illness is a medical condition affecting the brain (21% somewhat confident) • 69% extremely/very confident: a genetic code in cells helps determine who we are (22% somewhat confident) • 53% extremely/very confident: childhood vaccines are safe and effective (30% somewhat confident) • 31% extremely/very confident: life evolved through natural selection (24% somewhat confident) AP poll published April 2014; 1,012 adults rated confidence in a scientific concept
  5. 5. Are genetically modified foods safe to eat? Scientists: 88% Public: 37% Should childhood vaccines be required? Scientists: 86% Public: 68% Is research involving animals OK? Scientists: 89% Public: 47% Did humans “evolve”? Scientists: 98% Public: 65% The survey of the general public was conducted using a probability-based sample of the adult population by landline and cellular telephone Aug. 15-25, 2014, with a representative sample of 2,002 adults nationwide. Their views vs. scientists’ views
  6. 6. An eager audience National Science Foundation Science and Engineering Indicators 2016
  7. 7. Pew Research Center – Sept. 2017 Where they’re getting science info Plus: 81% watch science-related entertainment media (crime dramas, hospital-based shows or sci fi)
  8. 8. Science & policymakers • Take aim at ‘wasteful spending’ • Seize on controversies & safety lapses • Staffers may have little scientific background • Policy should be based on evidence
  9. 9. Don’t take it from me… National Academy of Sciences Committee on Science Literacy and Public Perception of Science Science Literacy: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences August 2016
  10. 10. “Science literacy for individuals, communities, and societies emerges at the interface of the knowledge, attitudes, and motivation of laypeople and the communicative efforts and trustworthiness of scientists. The scientific community needs to take at least partial responsibility for creating an environment in which science literacy can thrive. ”
  11. 11. 1.8% 98.2% STEM ~ 5.7M Everyone else ~310M STEM workforce vs. US population
  12. 12. What do we do? • Connect with faculty about upcoming publications, grants, major events, etc. • Plan the best communication course • Write & get feedback on what we write • Commission or create visuals & videos • Disseminate content via all appropriate channels -- including reporters & social media • Act as intake for media requests • Coach faculty on media interactions • Approach reporters with ideas or experts • Handle “hot button” issues
  13. 13. Connect via the media • Press release/blog post on research or other work • Expert opinion on a topic in your specialty • Commenting on research by others or on a societal/policy issue • In-depth stories on a weighty topic • Crisis/problem situations
  14. 14. Talking to reporters • Prepare with PR person • three key points • Use layperson’s terms • avoid jargon • speak colloquially • If there’s a press release, use it • Respect deadlines • Understand the news outlet • Respect their independence
  15. 15. Use the time AHEAD of publication The “Scout’s honor” embargo system for research news • Institution/journal reaches out to reporters a few days ahead • Reporter agrees not to publish or broadcast results until a set date/time • Used by all major journals & scientific/medical societies
  16. 16. A new era of communication • Traditional news media’s gatekeeper role is eroding • Big institutions = trustworthy news sources • Everyone’s a publisher
  17. 17. Who needs reporters anyway? • Social media & search • Institutions & individuals create & share directly • Visuals & videos are vital • Fast response to controversy
  18. 18. News Media • Immediate coverage • Later coverage • Later expert source requests PR services • Eurekalert • Newswise • PR Newswire • Futurity • News aggregators U-M outlets • Record / Headlines • Magazines • Websites & blogs • Newsletters • Email: donors, alumni, others Social media • U-M/UMHS fans • Shares of our stories • Shares of news coverage • Reddit, etc. Publish U-M content in a way that anyone can freely use (as long as they mention us as the source) Our Answer:
  19. 19. Since spring 2016: Reseach & education stories via Web, Facebook, Twitter & Email Sister site for health tips & patient stories:
  20. 20. • 1-2 stories a day • Aimed at sophisticated general audience • Easily shareable • Custom graphics • Paid social media promotion • Search engine optimization • Open copyright
  21. 21. Researchers using social media • Connect with others in the field & beyond • Share new findings, publications, news items, observations, opinions, timely links • Retain professional tone while engaging • Get the most out of conferences & events
  22. 22. Creating your personal “brand”
  23. 23. Your personal brand… • NOT a logo • Must be built, over time • Comes from the ways you present yourself to the world… … and what people can find about you • Affects how people will interact with you & your work
  24. 24. Why do it? • Connect with others in your field & beyond • Raise the visibility of your work • Share new findings, publications, news items, observations, opinions, timely links • Engage with individuals and institutions around the world & right next door • Get the most out of conferences & events • Raise awareness of YOU for career purposes
  25. 25. Why else? Altmetrics! • Aggregating activity around individual journal articles: • media coverage • blog posts • social media activity • more • Traces links & specific mentions • Assigns a score & percentile • Not perfect! But getting better
  26. 26. Flagel et al Genetic background and epigenetic modifications in the core of the nucleus accumbens predict addiction-like behavior in a rat model PNAS, April 2016 An example…
  27. 27. Jargon = words not in common vocabulary Words that people in a given field use exclusively, or in a different way from how others use them “Robust” – an adjective for data? Or coffee? “Significant” – passed a statistical threshold? Or another word for important? To reach the public, avoid jargon
  28. 28. Does it pass the Thanksgiving Table Test?
  29. 29. Communicating with the public Logical organization “You” and other pronouns Active voice Common, everyday words Short sentences, short paragraphs Easy-to-read design features
  30. 30. Every researcher’s essentials • A robust, updated professional web profile • Know your PR person & when you should contact us • Basic LinkedIn profile • Google yourself/set up a Google alert for your name
  31. 31. “Laying low” • Start by “lurking” – follow individuals, institutions, organizations, news media • Monitor Twitter traffic at conferences via hashtags (& use them!) • Subscribe to lists of Twitter users compiled by others in your field • Join LinkedIn groups for professional societies
  32. 32. Take it to the next level • Claim Twitter handle, write a brief bio & link to your page • Share links & posts on LinkedIn • Write a “plain English” web blurb on your research focus • Post/tweet about each paper you publish/talk you give
  33. 33. Engaging more fully • Share links to your own work & work of others • Post slide sets on your site or SlideShare • Take part in tweet chats, Reddit AMAs, online campaigns, virtual journal clubs, etc. • On your personal social media, educate friends by sharing news/observations
  34. 34. Join • Platform to reach the public on timely topics • Articles created by academics, shaped by professional editors • Open copyright for republishing • Routinely republished by major media outlets, from Time and Washington Post to IFL Science • Easily shared via social media and the web • Authors can see data on views & republishing
  35. 35. I challenge you… • Speak their language. • Don’t just hope someone else will do it! • See it as part of a research career.
  36. 36. I need more help! Resources for communicating with press & public Help with writing in plain English: Logos, photos, templates