Research-related communication, Part II: The dialogue is worth it?

Picture: The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Lawrence Harman, licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Massimiano Bucchi1 has stated how science communication has moved from mediated to more direct communication from the researcher to consumer. The responsibility held by science journalists has shifted towards the scientists themselves.

Universities’ increasing pressures to show an impact in society and the availability of new communication channels have changed academic work. Besides discussing their research, researchers are expected to participate in conversations about topics that might not even be the core of their expertise.

Time and training

Increasing awareness about your research, remote team-work and building your own career require actively participating on many online platforms. None of the social networking come without pain: a great deal of time must be used for communicating. I asked some European media researchers to comment on the issue.

“[As researchers] it is yet another thing for us to do, and the learning curve is steep”, says Jenny Kitzinger of Cardiff University.

Playing the role of active public speaker may not please everyone.

“Being also a communicator of scientific work on a regular basis adds a new role to the researchers’ profile. A role that many people, especially researchers, are not able or not willing to take – be it a lack of knowledge and competences or the fact, that they don’t want to have an extra role”, comments Michael Roither of the University of Applied Sciences Burgenland.

Pitching news for the media is can be a nuisance, especially without proper training.

“It is very difficult to have to frame something as ‘newsworthy’ in the eyes of journalists and get it out quickly to them pitched in the right way if it relates to a current story”, says Emma Briant of the University of Sheffield. “I have been lucky. But often you need to have a public profile already or they don’t know you exist.”

The chances of success are enhanced when proper background support is offered, states Jenny Kitzinger. Universities can support their researchers with the help of advice and training, PR personnel, financial support for promotion, and spreading the knowledge via their own channels.

The indispensable online presence?

Picture: Newtown birds 1 by Travis, licence CC BY 2.0

In the increased competition of academic careers, researchers with distinctive online profiles stand out better than the rest. The potential for enhanced dialogue with society is also motivating. Yet, all of this communicating requires time and effort.

“The dialogue is worth it”, states Jenny Kitzinger about learning the ins-and-outs of new platforms and investing time in them.


Pictures: The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Lawrence Harman, licence CC BY-ND 2.0 and Newtown birds 1 by Travis, licence CC BY 2.0

This is the second article in a series about research-related communication. Read the first part of the article here.

Pasi Ikonen is a student and employee in University of Jyväskylä, home of Journalism Research News.

1 Bucchi, M. (2013). Style in science communication. Public Understanding of Science, 22(8), 904-915.

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