STREAM 3: Beyond tweets and blogs: leveraging the changing media landscape

Stream Moderator
Deborah Smith
Faculty Journalist, UNSW Science
Co-moderator
Sarah Terkes
Digital Marketing Coordinator, Faculty of Science, UNSW
Brains Trust
Susannah Eliott
CEO, Australian Science Media Centre
Brains Trust
Carol Saab
Communication Manager, CSIRO Video & Social Media

STREAM HOSTED ON THE 6th June
Workshop 1: 12.00pm – 1.30pm
Workshop 2: 2.30pm – 4.00pm

An exponential increase in the form and function of new media both nationally and internationally has brought into stark relief the complex relationship between science, the media and the public. How can Australian science communicators make the most of the increased opportunities available online? Is there a need for stronger collaboration between scientists, artists, producers and editors to develop new ideas and push the boundaries of traditional media content?


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26 comments
Craig Cormick
Craig Cormick like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The top three impediments and solutions from yesterday's workshop. What do you think?

Stream 3: Beyond Tweets and Blogs

Issue 1: Lack of incentives/recognition for scientists to communicate

Solutions:
Top levels of government funding agencies should regulate a standard communications allocation in budgets for all grant applications; 

Universities should provide incentives for academics to communicate and do outreach (eg, include in job applications, standard part of academic position descriptions and university funding dependent on not just research output, but also communications/outreach.

-Research grants to include communications/ outreach components

Issue 2: lack of knowledge about what is “beyond” tweets and blogs

Solutions:

We need to find mechanisms to encourage science communicators to relinquish traditional mindsets and be open to the shifting media landscape.

We need to find mechanisms to encourage science communicators to embrace change, be fearless, jump in and learn new technologies.

- Professional development/peer mentors/best practice models/a national learning network.

Issue 3: Competing for voice / breaking  through the noise

Solutions:

Collaborate with “influencers” and successful organisations or communicators who have already captured that audience.
Identify your target audience, and find where they are.

-- Establish wider networks that allow for real knowledge-sharing and access to key influencers.

Digivizer
Digivizer

@Craig Cormick Good conclusions.

On issue 1: it would be amazing (fantastic!) if a comms budget were allocated to grant applications. Not sure we'd ever see that happen, but keep us posted!

Encouraging outreach is also to be supported and applauded. As to embracing new technologies, there is (in my experience) only one way to do so, and that's start. A peer network is a good idea too.

On issue 2: there are numerous tools to see what's beyond the Tweet (ours is one, of course). Many are free, attached to  social media channels. It's important to remember that the world's greatest discovery, or the world's most interesting article, will remain a well-kept secret if it's not communicated.

On issue 3: at one level the simple task of being active, often, will raise one's influence. To different and varying degrees all social media channels reflect and measure frequency.  Science is the archetypal collaborative community and discipline. It's ideally suited to the social media world (don't forget why the Internet was originally invented!)

Anne Korn
Anne Korn

@Digivizer@Craig Cormick"there are numerous tools to see what's beyond the Tweet (ours is one, of course). Many are free, attached to  social media channels." I'd be grateful for some links. I find many of them very tedious because the free ones take a long tome to load the data or provide data that isn't very conclusive, especially where Twitter is concerned. 

PeterGreen1
PeterGreen1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

One of my personal concerns is the way that science communication via the media is discussed in terms of only researchers and journalists, forgetting the fundamental role that PR staff play in media work. Only well-supported PR staff can provide the consistent planned PR that research needs if it is to compete with other news - sports, celebrity, political, financial, etc.

Digivizer
Digivizer

@PeterGreen1 Agree. That was implicit (hidden!) in my previous comment. Although scientific writers/journalists partly fulfil that role...

Digivizer
Digivizer like.author.displayName 1 Like

Very interesting. It seems that the scientific community (perhaps especially the scientific community!) differs little from other sectors: you have to tell your story to your audience (define both) in terms relevant to that audience (define both again). This challenge is stronger in the scientific community for two reasons: the subject matter is complex, and it's usually not of trivial importance. So if mainstream media are in decline anyway, and if mainstream media don't really want to employ a specialist scientific writer, the scientific writers should write using new social media channels and draw to them like-minded individuals who will coalesce around the topic and the writer. The trick then is to exploit that specialist coalescence of expertise to whatever the cause or commercial objective might be.
And this is where the scientific world meets the commercial/marketing/public relations world - a whole new discussion!
But: that a topic is "correct" and grounded in science is, unfortunately, not enough anymore.

malyne1
malyne1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

And the top problem/solution as voted in the workshop, seems to be: 

Problem - a lack of formal recognition amongst scientists for communication

Solution - instill recognition for it at the senior management level, add the need for communication to position descriptions and set aside the funding for training

malyne1
malyne1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Possible impediments: 

Scientists finding the time to 'learn communication'

Lack of formal recognition in 'doing communication'

Finding a united message as a scientific community

Avoiding jargon - get the message out succinctly, not losing it's meaning in using more everyday language

And... just what is beyond tweets and blogs? "We'll have to ask that Google woman", says Deb.

Digivizer
Digivizer like.author.displayName 1 Like

A-ha, ok! So we wait to see the comments as you guys enter them, and then respond as we see fit...Cool...

malyne1
malyne1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

So far, workshopping ideas on what the top three impediments are for a vision of science becoming a mainstream topic across all media. Large turnout for this workshop - seven tables full of chatty communicators!

Digivizer
Digivizer

Good morning everyone...Sitting at my desk, I'm not too sure what I might expect to see here...

Digivizer
Digivizer like.author.displayName 1 Like

We would be naive to expect the specialist scientific journalist to be immune from the colossal changes affecting all journalists and all media organizations. In the context of this audience and conference, it's a shame that the specialist scientific write is niche appointment, but that's always been the case. Perhaps the last great surge of specialists were in the 1960s when Apollo was at its height. 
But that example is cause for hope. Should there be a new national scientific or engineering program from any nation in the future, that has global implications, we might well see a new cohort of specialists appear. Examples include climate change/policy/programs, and here in Australia the NBN.
But let's also not confuse the image of a specialist scientific journalist with a specialist scientific writer. Good content will always prevail, and the good journalist of yesterday will be the good writer of tomorrow. The channel will change, and social media channels and the opportunities for output and influence they provide for scientific writers are exciting.
Social media channels also allow for the quick and spontaneous grouping of like-minded individuals which automatically define an audience for the writer.  And if the content is relevant, accessible and understandable (interesting, in short) the specialist scientific writer has a rosy future.

Tory Shepherd
Tory Shepherd like.author.displayName 1 Like

Hi, all - just a comment from a mainstream journalist... the ideal situation would be specialist journalists, but the reality is science needs to be able to be communicated to any journalist... we have to be able to explain whatever breakthrough, concept, discovery to people who may only have basic science literacy, so the better the science is explained to us, the better we can pass it on. It's always challenging to find that balance between explaining simply and dumbing down.

PeterGreen1
PeterGreen1

Could I suggest that the reason specialist journalists are significant is because they have been recognised as such by established and trusted media. Without that commendation what distinguishes Freda Bloggs of the Sydney Morning Herald from Freda Bloggs and her blog? For specialist audiences - research administrators, politicians - bloggers may have reached the same level of recognition as journalists in the traditional media, but do other researchers pay as much attention to them? And do the various lay audiences that research must communicate with believe bloggers over the TV?

wward
wward

It's in part about relationships, interpersonal and wider. Journalists need to gain and maintain credibility as gatekeepers / conduits / translators / commentators. Unfortunately science journos are fast disappearing from traditional mass media, so they need to find new media outlets. I thinking remaining critical and credible (or being perceived as being these) is the key - but does it keep you in a job in certain media organisations? It appears not.

Susannah Eliott
Susannah Eliott

Hi All,  I would like to start a discussion on the role of journalism in the new multichannel landscape. Once at the heart of mass communication, journalists are now just players in an increasingly diverse landscape. But they play an incredibly important role that both critiques and pulls together different strands of information. When organisations produce their own channels, the information stream is direct and unfiltered but also uncritical. How can we ensure that the important role of the journalist is not lost in the noise (and regardless of whether media companies employ them)?

Digivizer
Digivizer

Hello everyone. We're an Aussie start-up working in the space where social media, CRM and big data all meet (or collide). We're commercial, so the science context is new for us. We'll keep our comments objective, we promise...

Craig Cormick
Craig Cormick like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Okay, a very BIG question for all panel streams - are we too distracted by the word 'Science'? Is Science our obsession - and should we rather be talking less about the Process and more about the Endgame, such as:

- Environmental sustainability

- Productive industries

- Better health services

- More informed citizens

- Being healthier, wealthier and wiser etc etc etc?

wward
wward like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Yep, and it needs to be appropriate for different audiences, local, regional, statewide, national, A-P and global. This points to a mixed media approach. We need a handle on what our audiences / stakeholders want first, then select our media to suit them. That includes finding out what media they have access to before we waste our resources. We need to think before we jump onto technological bandwagons - I believe this is social determinism (at least, at its extreme ...). There are plenty of journos out there that don't tweet!

PeterGreen1
PeterGreen1 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

This raises the question of audiences. Who do you want to reach and what do you want them to do? For some opinion formers the social web is crucial, but for mass audiences the traditional media remains key. I suspect that we need a bit of both. Perhaps more importantly that 'bit of both' needs to be planned and consistent across platforms.

Vicki Martin
Vicki Martin like.author.displayName 1 Like

@PeterGreen1 Definitely a bit of both - planned and consistent, so I agree.  The thing I find interesting is how much journalists are tuned into social media, especially Twitter, which means that to get their attention and increase our chances of science stories getting into traditional media, science communicators should be using social media in a more planned and consistent way, too.  What do you think?

Vicki Martin
Vicki Martin like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I think that we have to start with training for science communicators - many of whom are scientists - so that they understand the true utility of these new media platforms - how they really work and link with each other.  Many people in marketing understand how to do this, and can teach us quite a lot.  Not surprisingly, there are plenty of blogs out there that can help us.  One thing is clear, it is a very different way of doing things compared to traditional media.  Simply posting information on a Facebook page, web site, or blog won't cut it unless you know how to really use and link these tools to maximise your reach.

Craig Cormick
Craig Cormick like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

So if the impact of traditional media is fading and more people are diving into the pools of new media, are we still thinking too much in the way of traditional media and trying to apply that to social media? Should we stop thinking about new media as an alternative to mainstream media and start thinking of it as a truly 'new' media, a place to have conversations more than push content, a place to allow for fast feedback, and a place to get out of the ghettos of science media?

AlphaGalileo
AlphaGalileo like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Peter Green, AlphaGalileo research news service. Looking forward to learning more about Australian research excellence, sadly we see little Australian research news as compared to news from North America, Asia and Europe. 

@alphagalileo

jazz_vibes
jazz_vibes like.author.displayName 1 Like

Furthermore, if you want to adjust what information people have. Update wikipedia!

kyliesturgess
kyliesturgess like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Inspired by: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110707151445.htm and also the Skeptical Science work done on communication and outreach. Do Us-Them strategies shoot science in the foot? I would like to see more data on what are effective communication strategies and what has been done in the realm of cognition, communication, risk perception, etc, on persuasion.

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