It can be daunting to figure out the best way to share your research with people outside of your field. Where do you start? How do you know if you’re reaching the people you want to reach? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry: there are SciComm professionals who can help you out, and we’ve got some quick tips for getting the most out of a collaboration with science communication experts.
- First, see if you can get science communication support from your university. Your best bet is to contact the institute’s public engagement or communications team. If you don’t have one, look for the media or press office, or ask your institute’s librarian if they know how to contact the university’s media office.
- Read science communication research papers or reports. They’re often written with researchers like you in mind, to provide advice for future science communication projects.
- Finally, you can hire experts to help you develop the perfect science communication project. You can hire freelance science communication consultants, science writers, science filmmakers, science illustrators or other communication professionals. If you plan ahead, you can include costs for this in the budget for your next grant. (If your funder has a focus on public engagement, they will appreciate this!)
A field of its own
Just like you are an expert in your specific discipline, professional science communicators and science communication researchers are experts in certain areas of science communication. Some of them are former researchers themselves, and understand the challenges you face trying to combine science communication and research. Other SciComm professionals come from marketing, performing arts, education, or other fields where they’ve gained specialist knowledge about effective forms of communication.
And just as there are conferences for every field of research, science communicators have their own professional networks as well. There are conferences about science writing, science presenting, educational filmmaking, research on science communication or general science communication networking events with seminars. Scientists who are interested in science communication are often welcome at these events, so if you have time to attend one of these specalist meetings it can be a good opportunity to get an impression of what the field of science communication is all about. And who knows, you might get a great idea on how you can share your own research.
- You can find science communication articles in many places, including in field-specific journals such as JCOM or Science Communication, in general science journals like PLOS One, or in the front sections of Nature, Science, PNAS and other journals that include broad topics of interest for researchers. Science communication experts also regularly attend and speak at broad conferences like the AAAS annual meeting. The field changes rapidly, but current issues are often focused on finding the best ways to reach audiences, connecting with different audiences, and listening to different communities.
- Wellcome has information on their website with detailed tips for planning public engagement activities (and they are one of the funders that encourage budgetting for science communication expertise).
- For an idea of what it’s like to work with institutional science communicators, this communicator at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) outlines how she supports researchers in her role