How To Be a 21st Century Science Communicator - First Steps
HOWTO BE A 21ST CENTURY
- FIRST STEPS -
Joanne Richardson and Pat Nunnally
River Life, University of Minnesota
WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY
We are equipping the next generation of scientists to
participate in the creation of a more scientiﬁcally literate public.
• “An educated citizenry is the only safe repository for democratic values.”
• “In a democracy, it is very important that the public have a basic understanding
of science so that they can control the way that science and technology
increasingly affect our lives.”
- Stephen Hawking
• "Scientiﬁc literacy may likely determine whether or not democratic society will
survive into the 21st century."
- L. M. Lederman, Nobel Laureate
• Adequate scientiﬁc literacy is a critical component of a healthy society.
• “I'm a big fan of social media for scientists. I think it can do a lot
for your scientiﬁc career, do a lot for your networking skills, and get
you an amazing support group. It can also help you get a broader
education, ﬁnding out about science outside your subﬁeld, and give
you a crash course in how to communicate with people outside
• So it’s good for your career and your discipline too.
It started with this request onTwitter
@ihearttheroad People of STEM: I'm working on a module for a
social media workshop. Help me? Answer this Q:Why do you
tweet?#WhySciTweet (RT? kthxbye).
• @myleskilloneous #whyscitweet a massive multidisciplinary classroom at my ﬁngertips. I'm both the
student and the teacher. For FREE!#nohomework
• @ihearttheroad #WhySciTweet MT @kirkenglehardt So many things I read each day make me go
"WOW" I feel compelled to share so others can react (& learn) too.
• @LouWoodley #whyscitweet No one can be everywhere at once - live tweeting of events allows
you to share your experiences and share in those of others.
• @DrStelling #WhySciTweet Because aTwitter account is the digital equivalent of a business card.
And it's an interactive card, too!
• @JessicaHellmann @ihearttheroad #WhySciTweet I tweet to try out ideas, help amplify science
voices, share results; I listen as quick/easy way to stay current
• @paulacroxson #WhySciTweet Because it keeps me more up-to-date with what's going on in my
ﬁeld than I ever was before!
IMAGINE FOR A MOMENT
• Envision a community of scientists, global in scale, all learning
from each other, sharing insights and perspectives.
• We have the tools.
• We’ll give you the ground rules to get started.
SO WHAT AM ITALKING
• This isn’t about “social media strategy” or “self-branding.”
• This isn’t about getting more likes, hits, props, retweets, or
shares than anyone else.
• This is about doing work.
SO WHATTO SAY?
• Share thoughts, resources, and ideas,
• Images, videos, graphics, or text,
• Links, tools, articles, blog posts, retweets, and quotes.
• Ask questions, solicit opinions and seek knowledge.
SO WHAT DO I SAY?
WHAT DO I SHARE?
“Science communication” can mean many things, including education
about the principles of the scientiﬁc method, explanation of the
results of current research, reinforcing the community of science
fans, and facilitating communication between scientists.”
- Josh Witten
Phrases like “social media communications strategy” and “digital
communications” get bandied about a lot.
REMEMBERTHAT IT GOES
Communications is just as much about listening as it is about
WHO SHOULD DOTHIS?
We encourage all of you to participate.
This week, and as you progress in your careers.
WHY SHOULD EVERYONE
• You’ll get practice and experience.
• You’ll create a record of your experiences for yourselves and
for others. For this year and for next.
• You’ll start to establish voice and explore the tools.
• There’s no time like the present.
• Start now.
WHERE DO WE DOTHIS?
• At home.
• In your hotel or at the coffee shop.
• At dinner or in the lab.
TO GET STARTED
• Have something to say.
• Have somewhere to say it.
• Cultivate an audience.
• How? Consider these core ideas...
CORE IDEAS OF DIGITAL
• Being Human
• Choosing aTool
• Who do you want to hear what you are saying?
• Perhaps colleagues, fellow scientists, students, and
collaborators, the next generation of scientists, the general
public, policy makers, funders and patrons, industry
professionals, friends, family, and peers.
• Where is your audience?
• Notice and adapt if the audience you have is different than the
audience you want.
• What are you trying to achieve?
• You might foster community, clear up misunderstandings,
educate regarding the importance of your work, connect long-
term scientiﬁc work to day-to-day media and news.
• I encourage you to set your goals, to deﬁne success for
yourself in terms of the work you do.
• You improve what you measure, so be careful what you
• Measurement gives you interesting information, but remember
what it really means. Having a lot of followers or hits doesn’t
necessarily mean that your material was read thoughtfully.
• Look for conversations that have been sparked, connections
made with colleagues, thoughtful comments, knowledge
• The most boring people at parties are the ones that do all the
talking and never listen back.
• Listen back.
• Pay attention to what interests you, and also to what you don’t
engage with. Use that information to guide your own work.
• Comment, reply, retweet, and follow-up.
• Have fun. Sound like a human. Have a personal voice.
• Have a sense of humor.
• Use memes. Use lolcats. Use rage faces. Reference trends.
• But... don’t be frivolous or descend into a chaos of inside jokes.
• If you want to make quick posts frequently, useTwitter.
• If you want to make longer and more thoughtful posts less
frequently, think about blogging.
• Choose the tool that matches the job that you want doing.
WHAT IS ATWEET?
• 140 characters posted with aTwitter account.
• Say one thing, say it brieﬂy.
• You can reply toTweets and you can include links or images.
• You need aTwitter account to post, but you don’t need one to
WHAT IS A BLOG POST?
• The best blog posts talk about one thing, and end with a
charge or question.
• This isn’t formal writing, sound like a human. It’s okay to not
know all the answers, or to lack a profound conclusion.
• Pictures and links are always popular, and the post does not
have to be long.
• If you’re struggling to start, try to aim for 100 words.
THE ONLY WAY
• When it comes right down to it, the only way to learn this is
to do this.
• So jump in and try.
• This can be the start of your digital portfolio, or just a skills-
building exercise that may be useful years down the line.
WANT MORE INFORMATION?
• Do blog posts correlate with a higher number of future citations? By Hadas Shema
In a word, yes.
• Do blog citations correlate with a higher number of future citations? Research blogs as a potential source for alternative
metrics By Hadas Shema, Judit Bar-Ilan and MikeThelwall
This is the actual paper.Again, yes, however they refer here to a speciﬁc form of blogging called “research blogging” and this is a
• Science CommunicationTips:We Can HearYou By Scicurious
Excellent summary of the best reasons to participate in social media as a scientist, as well as solid advice on how to notice and
avoid potential pitfalls.
• TL:DR by Neuropolarbear
On the beneﬁts of brevity. Numbers tells us that if what you write is too long, or waits too long for the reveal, then nobody will
• The role ofTwitter in the life cycle of a scientiﬁc publication By Emily Darling, David Schiffman, Isabelle Cȏté, Joshua Drew
From pre-review works in progress to communicating published ﬁndings, this paper explores the role ofTwitter and its broad
audience with regards to the world of scientiﬁc publication.
• Lessons Learned: My First Press Release By Emily Peters
Solid advice on how to deal with putting yourself out there – how to prepare both your work and yourself.
WANT MORE INFORMATION?
• Cutting the jargon: Explaining science to the public by MPR
Communication relies on everyone understanding the language used. Speak to your audience using language they understand.
• Scicurious Guest Writer: Societal challenges to science communication in Nepal By Roshan Karki
On what can happen when you bump up against cultural challenges and apathy.
• Finding an audience with social media By Josh Witten
Figuring out audience. Who are they, where are they, and what do they want to hear?
• A NoteTo Beginning Science Writers By Carl Zimmer
A very clear discussion of the basics, including information on how to get into the business of professional science writing.
• What the ScienceTells Us About “Trust in Science” by Liz Neeley
Does advocacy by scientists erode trust, credibility, and reputation for objectivity? What does trust in science even mean? This is
part of an excellent series on evidence based analysis of science communications.
(Spoiler alert: It depends.)
• People of STEM:Why DoYouTweet? by Jessica Morrison
An ongoing discussionTwitter on why scientistsTweet.
• Storytellers Who Know Science, Scientists WhoTell Stories by Pat Nunnally
Thoughts on the future of communications and science careers.
Follow us @RiverLifeUMN onTwitter
Read RiverTalk at http://riverlife.umn.edu