Building a science communications platform: A recipe from The Science Basement
The Science Basement started out as a group of PhD students who felt a responsibility to share their research with the public. Many of our colleagues are still skeptical about our initiative suggesting it takes time away from our research.
However, we get so much in return! Discussing our research in Layman’s terms forces us to go back to the basics and to re-question everything, helping us to gain a more profound insight into your field. Here, we share seven fundamental ingredients we think are needed to create a successful SciComm platform:
First, add a bit of funding
If done as volunteering, science communication doesn’t require a lot of funding, but at least some is needed when getting started. The Institute of Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) has supported us since our first steps, which has allowed us to publish our content to a website and to organize public events that are free of charge for the audience. There are also plenty of foundations that support projects related to science outreach, and so applying for funding is a great way to sponsor bigger projects or events.
Then, a mix of diverse content
Always aim to explore new topics and ideas. We welcome everyone who is interested in science communication to come to our meetings and share their SciComm ideas. Most importantly, we are keen on finding out more about our peers’ research projects regardless of their field of expertise. This curiosity for different fields has helped us to establish relationships with a diverse team of scientists. The topics we cover range from space physics, genetics, and climate research to social sciences, musicology, and artistic research. In this way, we can resonate with a more broad audience.
And some marketing spices
Promoting your events and content requires a comprehensive social media strategy as well as building and maintaining a network of contacts. It took us a while to figure out how to design and execute our social media strategy and which social media platforms to use. After a year, we are now active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Facebook provides a great platform to promote our events while Twitter is very useful to spread the word about the content we produce. Social media, including Instagram, are becoming more and more popular nowadays among science bloggers. We try to post regularly to keep our audience engaged. When it comes to building a network of contacts, it’s very helpful to stay connected with the science community by not just attending but also getting involved in major events (like March for Science, Science Slam or Finland’s annual festival Night of the Arts).Give scientists a range of communication options. Click To Tweet
Now, choose the right utensil for each dish
Give scientists a range of communication options. Some researchers prefer to discuss their findings in a podcast, others might prefer to blog about their research, whilst some may want to adopt a more artistic approach to their communication. Give everyone the chance to use the media they prefer. On our platform, we organize live-streamed monthly talks where researchers can briefly present their research and discuss it with the audience in Q&A sessions. Our projects also include a biweekly podcast and our own science blog. In addition, we provide a free of charge platform to host blogs by scientists from all over the world. Recently, we also launched the Science Kitchen project, bringing together science and deliciously healthy food. Communicating science in a range of different ways gives more elbow room for creativity to flourish and, again, enables you to reach a much broader audience than if you just focus on one medium.
Finally, someone to taste your science
Knowing your audience is very important when deciding what content to produce and how to convey your message in the most effective way possible. For instance, we hosted a few events for children and in our quest to find engaging ways to get them interested in our science projects, we built our own LEGO Physics lab. Content needs to be customized to fit the different audiences you are trying to reach. Not only that but also, using the feedback from your audience is fundamental to improving and growing your platform. Whilst some “dishes” might be more successful than other, all of them are wonderful learning opportunities. So, don’t forget to listen to your audience.Our goal is not only to share our passion with the world but also to increase science literacy. Click To Tweet
Our goal is not only to share our passion with the world but also to increase science literacy. Scientific jargon can often be misused. We aim to provide a platform to facilitate a fruitful dialogue between the general public and academia; a space where research findings can be openly discussed without a middleman. This, in turn, empowers the public to make more informed decisions.
If you need any help to get started or want to get involved with The Science Basement’s activities, do not hesitate to contact us at thesciencebasement.org.
Opinions in this blog post are that of the authors, and not necessarily that of Hindawi. The text in this blog post is by Ekaterina Baibuz and Chiara Facciotto and is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The picture was provided by The Science Basement. Illustration credits: DinosoftLabs, Vectors Market, Roundicons, Freepik Smashicons, Ekaterina Baibuz, Susanne Hultsch.