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Tools for Scientific Storytelling: Social Media


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A key to becoming a successful scientist is the ability to communicate one’s fascinating research in a way that is readily understandable by non-scientists. This session will underline the importance of public awareness and understanding of scientific pursuits and how the ability to communicate to the general public can benefit both the research itself as well as a scientist’s career.

The focus of this 1.5 hour session is to introduce participants to the value of social media for communicating their research to a lay audience in the context of storytelling. Scientists, in general, have been somewhat reticent to normalize the use of social media as a tool to engage the public as well as network with their colleagues. In addition to exploring the current social media landscape and why it is important to your science, the session will also focus on practical communication skills such as effective choice of wording (i.e. identifying and eliminating jargon), tailoring your story to your audience, generating excitement/entertainment with your work, and eliminating misleading notions from your communications.

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Tools for Scientific Storytelling: Social Media

  1. 1. genomics.entrepreneurship@UBC Ben Paylor - @benpaylor July 4th, 2013 Social Media
  2. 2. What is a PhD? Doctor of a “love of wisdom” All human knowledge Your PhD
  3. 3. Epigenetic Landscapes (2010) A Natural Selection (2011) Deflating the Genomic Bubble(2012) Screened: GeneScreen (2010, 2011, 2012) Imagine Science Film (2011) DeafTVFest (2011) Master ASL! Textbook (2012) Michael Smith AMBL Genetics Workshop (2012, 2013)
  4. 4. Science Communication at the Banff Centre 2-week Intensive Workshop 20 Participants admitted each year Covers: Communication, Writing, Podcasting, Video Production, Media Training, Public Speaking, Drinking, Etc.
  5. 5. Lesson’s Learnt 1. Be aware: You Are A Brand 2. Getting outside your comfort zone will benefit your career 3. Improving your communication skills will be valuable regardless of what you do 4. There are numerous training/educational opportunities out there - use them
  6. 6. Science Communication at the Banff Centre Blogging
  7. 7. Client Animation Service Summer 2011 to Present.... Develop workflow (scripting, storyboarding, narration, editing), client / provider relationships, learn how to not be crappy
  8. 8. StemCellShorts Pilot Project: 3 videos on basic stem cell Qs Narrated by SCN PIs (Till, Rossant, Bhatia) Us: Concept, Script, Storyboards, Narration, Production Contract: Animation, Sound Design Distribution: Let’s Talk Science,, SCN, StemCellTalks Granted March 2012 & May 2013 Up to $5000 for Public Outreach projects
  9. 9. StemCellShorts - Pilot 1. What is a stem cell? (Dr. Jim Till) 2. What is an embryonic stem cell? (Dr. Janet Rossant) 3. What is an induced pluripotent stem cell? (Dr. Mick Bhatia)
  10. 10.
  11. 11. 600 - 700 Attendees for 2013 Conference Always looking for volunteers! November 20-22, Toronto, ON
  12. 12. Science Communication 101
  13. 13. Interesting, relevant, clear and understandable to the audience New and/or novel Entertaining* (True)* Meets the medium’s non- negotiable demands about length, form, style, etc. Qualities of a good story
  14. 14. Completeness Thoroughness Strict accuracy Discussions of measurement uncertainty, confidence levels, etc. Acknowledgment of alternative theories or explanations Acknowledgment of collaborators, competitors, previous work, etc. Qualities that a good story doesn’t need
  15. 15. No one needs to read about your stupid science
  16. 16. •Describe your work using the minimum number of words and ideas new to your audience •Use analogies or metaphors that might be helpful in conveying the meaning of your work. (But be aware of the limitations of analogies) •Don’t be afraid to put caveats, qualifications, technical details, etc., at the end—or even to leave them out in some cases. The public’s needs are different from those of your peers Describing your research
  17. 17. From R.C.J. Somerville and S.J. Hassol, “Communicating the Science of Climate Change,” Physics Today, October 2011, p. 48
  18. 18. Describing your research •Use active voice sentence structures rather than passive ones: “We analyzed the sample” rather than “The sample was analyzed…” •Don’t be afraid to put yourselves in the story of your research. It isn’t immodest. You are characters in the story •Think conversation, not lecture
  19. 19. Social Media for Scientists
  20. 20. Social Media for Scientists The Big Four Lesser Known Tools...Blogging Platforms
  21. 21. •Powerful news aggregator •Dialogue with others at conferences •Create professional networks / Develop personal identity •Social Media (Facebook, Twitter) use both predicts and increases citations of papers Why use Twitter?
  22. 22. Mainstream media coverage led to 72% more citations!
  23. 23. Don’t Be Overwhelmed!
  24. 24. Where to start? 1. Create Twitter Account 2. Don’t worry about followers 3. Follow those who interest you 4. Unfollow those who don’t 5. Tweet! 6. Use #hashtags/pictures/links
  25. 25. Top Twitter Tips for Academic
  26. 26. Assessing Impact - altmetrics
  27. 27. Questions? Thanks genomics.entrepreneurship@UBC Banff Science Communication Faculty