Last month, Cristina Rigutto (communications consultant and social media editor at Public Understanding of Science Journal) came to speak to us, as part of our ongoing series of science communication seminars, about increasing the impact of our research through ‘post-publication digital engagement’. This isn’t about creating ‘impact’ in the REF sense of the word but the use of social media and online news streams to engage a wider public audience with academic research. Here are Cristina’s top practical, time-saving tips for using digital tools in science communication.
Twitter for conferences
Using Twitter is a great way to engage people with your research, especially when you’re attending or presenting at meetings and conferences. Before the conference starts, check Twitter to find out who else will be attending and get in touch with people whose research interests match yours. Let them know that you’ll be presenting and post a visual abstract of your talk or poster to whet their appetite. If you’re going to cite someone else’s work in your presentation, let them know and offer to send them a copy of your slides after your talk. When you get to the conference, tweet your session number and the time and location of your talk along with a picture of your first slide – you’ll encourage more people to come along! Don’t forget to prepare a couple of tweets in advance and ask a friend/colleague to tweet them to share the most salient points from your presentation as you speak. And finally, tweet a link to your slides so that people can download or read them after the event.
Before your presentation:
- Find the speaker and attendee list, network before the event.
- Create visuals to appeal to lay public/ journalists.
- Encourage people to ask questions about your work (in more than one language si possible).
- If you’re citing someone, let them know, offer to send them a copy of your presentation, everyone likes a freebie!
- Tweet session number, time, room number.
- Prepare tweets in advance.
Live tweet – now an essential part the conference experience!
After your presentation:
- Be open and willing to continue the conversation after the conference has ended.
- Tweet a download of your presentation.
Twitter is also useful for networking outside conference settings. If you publish a paper, tweet the DOI link, include a screenshot of the abstract and use appropriate hashtags. Use direct messages to contact people who may be interested in your work – share your paper and ask them for their opinion. Search for people by discipline or profession to find academics, journalists, students and bloggers who might be interested in your research. Follow them and they might follow you back! You can also use altmetrics to find out who is liking or retweeting your research and then you can get in touch with them.
- Tweet your paper using the journal’s DOI link (ensures google will pick it up), use appropriate hashtags, include a screen shot of the abstract.
- Direct message (DM) people who may be interested in your work – ask their opinion.
- Include images/ infographics/ sketchnotes.
- Find relevant academics, science journalists and bloggers and contact with links to a short version e.g. blogpost rather than original paper.
- Use Journal altmetrics to find out who has tweeted your research – record the names and invite to suitable event.
- Tweet according to a country’s local time.
- The right followers is more important than the number.
For many people Instagram seems to be mainly about celebrity lifestyle photos, holidays, culinary creations and well, a sepia tinted view on life – but there is definitely a use for it in the academic world:
It is very difficult to predict your Instagram audience in comparison to Twitter; however, you can often reach a larger lay public. Take the student who spent his summer holidays collecting faecal images (yes, taking pictures of poo!). After posting them on Instagram he ended up answering questions from the general public about the excreta related science – people were fascinated – and this is a good point, people are naturally curious so show them something interesting.
So, how can you use Instagram to show the human side of your research?
- Use it during the research process.
- Use a wide range of pictures – the inside of a lab is fascinating if you’ve never seen one before, try SciArt and selfies!
- Introduce staff members.
- Always include accurate and complete information about the image in the text.
- Include some humour
- Post some videos (more popular than images) – these don’t have to be long or artfully directed, just a few seconds of you talking works!
In short, we came away with a lot of practical tips and ideas for promoting our research that won’t take up too much time. See you all in the social media arena!
Jane Wooster and Kate Turton