Out of the pool and into the ocean

“…if scientists could communicate more in their own voices-in a familiar tone, with a less specialized vocabulary-would a wide range of people understand them better?  Would their work be better understood by the general public, policy-makers, funders, and, even in some cases, other scientists?” -Alan Alda

I love science.

I have spent many years teaching science and I feel like I have a pretty broad understanding of most scientific concepts.

However, last week I attended a 3 day meeting with a variety of respected researchers who are studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico, and I was struck by how little of the presentations and panel discussions I was able to absorb, especially when it came to the more abstract nature of their work.  If I, a person with a marked interest and a science background, was struggling for comprehension, what must it be like for the general public?

Now of course the audience at this meeting was made up of people who were in the know and didn’t need their science “dumbed down” if you will, but the language seldom changes when efforts are made to communicate with those outside the scientific sphere.  Science communication and outreach are fast becoming important facets of research and are starting to become tied to funding in big ways.  As the looming sequester has the potential to shrink federal support for research and development (R&D) by US$57.5 billion over the next five years (Nature), it is imperative that scientists work to build a case for the relevance of their work and that means targeting those who do not necessarily speak the same language that they do, namely taxpayers and policymakers!

Where do information professionals come into play in all this? Well, our work is intricately tied together with the researchers and academics that we serve.  Their cause is our cause and our background in outreach, communication, and research can be a valuable tool in making scientific research more accessible and relatable.

Science Communication Table

Source: Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol, from the October 2011 issue of Physics Today, page 48:

Some Helpful Resources

-A self-directed course on scientific communication from Nature

http://www.nature.com/scitable/topic/scientific-communication-14121566

-Similar resource from the American Association for the Advancement of Science

http://communicatingscience.aaas.org/

The Journal of Science Communication

http://scx.sagepub.com/

-Presentations from the National Academy of Sciences Colloquium “The Science of Science Communication”

http://www.nasonline.org/programs/sackler-colloquia/completed_colloquia/agenda-science-communication.html

-Science communication competitions!

http://famelab.org/

National Science Communication Institute

http://nationalscience.org/

 

 

This is a great presentation on social media for scientists.

http://socialnetworkingforscientists.wikispaces.com/

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Let’s Face It, No One Can Read Everything

I read.  A lot.  Still I’m constantly amazed at how little of the massive amounts of information available to me I’m actually able to absorb.  It is no surprise that this is an affliction shared by the research community.  Scientific research is available for public consumption in ways that would have seemed unimaginable just a few short years ago and the sheer volume can be overwhelming.

“In growing numbers, scholars are integrating social media tools like blogs, Twitter, and Mendeley into their professional communications. The online, public nature of these tools exposes and reifies scholarly processes once hidden and ephemeral. Metrics based on this activities could inform broader, faster measures of impact, complementing traditional citation metrics.”

http://arxiv.org/html/1203.4745v1

These alternative metrics, or altmetrics as they are commonly referred to, are increasingly gaining credence as a way to track the sphere of influence of social media in the scientific community.  It also serves to help sift the wheat from the chaff so to speak.  What is truly worth your time to read?  What are other like minded folks in your field reading?  What is the…

nmat3485-f1

The new model is starting to look like this.

four-ways-to-measure-impact-copy

Publication in a peer-review journal is not the only way to effectively measure the impact of research, especially now with the push for open access and the quickly becoming outdated model of traditional publication.

Check out IU E-Science librarian Stacy Konkiel’ s great talk on the potential uses of alt-metrics in libraries.

Click through these slides from Heather’s Piwowar’s talk on altmetrics from ALA mid-winter.

And finally some recommended reading just in case you have lots of time on your hands…

-Good intro to ways in which altmetrics are being used and their potential impact

https://blogs.aalto.fi/suoritin/2013/01/22/digging-into-altmetrics/

-Feel like you need a dissenting viewpoint?  Check out this editorial from Nature

http://www.nature.com/nmat/journal/v12/n2/pdf/nmat3566.pdf

Great article on using social media to explore scholarly impact, by the founders of  Impact Story

http://arxiv.org/html/1203.4745v1

-Tools from PLOS to measure research impact

http://article-level-metrics.plos.org/

-Bibliography of articles on altmetrics from PLOS

http://blogs.plos.org/everyone/2012/11/01/announcing-the-altmetrics-collection/

-Article discussing the new guidelines for grant applications for NSF which asks a principal investigator to list his or her research “products” rather than “publications” in the biographical sketch section.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v493/n7431/full/493159a.html#/author-information

-Quick blog post on altmetrics as a discovery tool

http://inundata.org/2013/01/23/altmetrics-as-a-discovery-tool/