Monday, July 27, 2009

Using YouTube and Twitter for science communication

"Tell me what you think of my research" isn't something you hear scientific researchers say to the public very often, but the Your Science Your Say initiative is changing all that. Watch the Trailer below to find out more...

Produced by Ian Brunswick here at Agtel and Padraig Murphy at Dublin City University, Your Science Your Say is a very innovative way of communicating science... It makes great use of YouTube, Twitter, on-line comments and even an automatic video response booth to get discussion going on the ethics of nanotechnology.

Don't miss your chance to post a video response at the Science Gallery or from the comfort of your own home online at Your Science Your Say - and here's some more background on it...


Have your say about publicly funded research. In each video, one of four nanotechnology researchers talks about the methodologies and potential effects of their work. Then you leave a response, saying which project you think has the biggest potential benefit, and which poses the most risk.

Responses are compiled as part of an Environment Protection Agency project looking at public responses to the environmental/health risks and benefits nanotechnology.

Your responses, whether submitted in-person at the Science Gallery , on this site as a written comment, or as a video response on YouTube, will help inform the EPA as they guide policy and regulation. Your Science Your Say will be installed in Dublin’s Science Gallery from July 7.

PS If you look closely you might find my own video response on the site too!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Elsevier Announces the “Article of the Future”

I think this prototype "Article of the Future" from Elsevier is great. It's basically a web interface that succeeds in making plain vanilla printed science journal articles easy to read, interactive and engaging.

Some of the key features are clickable graphics, audio interviews with the scientists who wrote the paper and embedded videos. Plus it's incredibly easy and intuitive to dig through the references (making it easier than ever to see if you've been cited in the article yourself!).

It's only when you see the original PDFs of the articles that you realise quite what an achievment this prototype interface is - instead of having to print out every article, Elsevier and their imprint Cell Press have come up with a way of making them easy to read on-screen.

Here are some of the main points from the full press release which on

The Article of the Future launches its first prototypes this week, revealing a new approach to presenting scientific research online. The key feature of the prototypes is a hierarchical presentation of text and figures so that readers can elect to drill down through the layers based on their current task in the scientific workflow and their level of expertise and interest. This organizational structure is a significant departure from the linear-based organization of a traditional print-based article in incorporating the core text and supplemental material within a single unified structure.

A second key feature of the prototypes is bulleted article highlights and a graphical abstract. This allows readers to quickly gain an understanding of the paper’s main ‘take home’ message and serves as a navigation mechanism to directly access specific sub-sections of the results and figures. The graphical abstract is intended to encourage browsing, promote interdisciplinary scholarship and help readers identify more quickly which papers are most relevant to their research interests.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Top 10 Tips for Science Communication

Here are the Top 10 Best Practice Tips from the recent Communicating Science conference at Engineers Ireland. It was a really interesting event with lots of thought provoking discussion - and these tips came out of a flurry of brainstorming activity.

Given the likely cutbacks in Irish science funding announced in the "Bord Snip Nua" report yesterday, it's more important than ever for all of us involved in science to pro-actively convince taxpayers and politicians that important research should continue to be funded.

And given the limited money available to promote science now it makes sense to follow these best practice tips to get value for money from all science communication activities...




1. Collaboration: Work with others. Look for
unexpected partnerships, for example, artists
and engineers.

2. Empowerment: Create opportunities for
teachers to excite students about science.

3. Enthusiasm: Be an enthusiastic advocate
for science in your community.

4. Planning: Be aware of other science
communication programmes and use the
resources and experience of others.

5. Context: Be aware that those who are least
interested in science often have great

6. Community Engagement: Start at
primary school level and get students, parents
and teachers to promote science. Encourage

7. Gender Awareness: Disarm taken-forgranted
social and gender biases that prevent
people from engaging in science and

8. Evaluate: Assess the behavioural change
you are achieving and make your evaluations

9. Technology: Use SMS, blogging,
webcasting and social networking sites, as well
as traditional methods, to promote science.
Make it interactive.

10. Change Behaviours: Select groups and
work with them to voluntarily change or
modify behaviour, e.g., get career guidance
teachers to motivate students to choose
science careers.

And there's also a good overview of the day's talks on Piaras Kelly's Public Relations in Ireland blog too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Spinning Science - Training for Scientists

With money so tight everywhere now Irish researchers urgently need to get out there and tell taxpayers why they should continue to receive funding.

Otherwise they might simply be forgotten about and find themselves in financial trouble very soon.

I hope lots of scientists take the time to go to the workshops on communicating science being run by the Science Spin magazine team. As they say themselves:
Scientists in Ireland have long been wary of the 'media' and its potential for harm. There has been little appreciation of the benefits that come from media coverage.

Now, for a scientist working at third-level to be successful, he must be very adept at making the case for why he should receive funding. For without funding, nothing can be achieved. To do this, he must be adept at communicating messages to a number of key audiences.
The one-day workshop programme looks very comprehensive with Sean Duke, Joint Editor of Science Spin aiming to provide scientists "with the skills, and insider knowledge you require, to achieve your communication goals."