In early June, I gave a keynote speech in Helsinki, Finland on the topic of storytelling, science blogs and science communication.
In my own research and teaching over the past year, I’ve focused on science blogs, storytelling and audience research, three elements that I think form an interesting “trifecta” of online science communication.
Narratives offer increased comprehension, interest and engagement over other fact-based forms of science communication. Narratives can be more persuasive than lists of facts, because they communicate concepts and values in a format that humans are primed to recognize and remember.
Stories and science have a personal connection for me. From a young age, I loved science, but more than anything, I loved science fiction. I loved a story about science. When I was very young, I wanted to be a writer, but science always fascinated me. Some of my fondest memories of school were building physical models of molecules with model kits and admiring photographs of plants, but then writing poetry about what these things meant to me. My appreciation for stories about science got me into science as a career, but eventually my love for storytelling took me from scientific research at the bench to work as a science communicator.
The internet and increasingly social media have become top sources of science news and information for many Americans, especially those interested in specific areas of science. Scientists are also increasingly using social media to talk about or read about science. In a 2015 survey of AAAS members, 47% had used social media to discuss or follow science, and 24% had blogged about science.
Social media, specifically the science blogosphere, has always been my primary experience of science communication. My first foray into science communication was through a science blog, and that expanded to using Twitter and a variety of other social media tools.
Today, this is the experience for many scientists and aspiring scientists. Any researcher or student with a Facebook page, a Twitter account or a knack for making YouTube videos can became a science communicator. They might not even realize that they are playing a science communication role when they post about their work or daily lives to social media. Social media has become a means for the people doing science to communicate directly to a broader audience, without going through traditional journalistic channels. And from a reader's perspective, science blogs offer - in addition to entertainment and an opportunity to interact with other science-interested individuals - information and perspectives on science that the reader can't find anywhere else. Not to mention personal stories about science.
Evidence-based science communication is increasingly important, as our science media environment becomes more complex and more polarized. There is increased awareness today that facts don’t speak for themselves, and that targeted science communication based on the audience is important to achieving impact on knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.
For the full talk, watch the video below (a recorded live-stream of the conference)! My keynote starts at 15min in.