Publiscize Your Research

Author's Note: I recently came across an article talking about a new website called Publiscize, a platform that helps scientists break down and promote their published research for a lay audience. The platform, a service for science communication straight from researchers themselves, was founded by Robert Seigel, a postdoctoral research fellow in atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami. I contacted Robert to ask him a few questions about this new platform for sharing research.

Publiscize Screen Shot

From The Lab Bench: Can you tell me more about, how it works and what the motivation for it was?

I just launched a new page on the site that should help describe how Publiscize works:

Publiscize is a web-based platform where scientists, universities and science-based organizations can share their scientific discoveries with the public in terms everyone can understand. The primary goal of Publiscize is to increase the amount of science that is publicized, which is very low at this time, and to increase scientists' research visibility, encourage cross-field collaboration and educate the public. At the same time, we work with and promote scientists, universities and organizations to help them "show off" all of their great research and innovation as well as connect with the public and media.

We verify the credentials of Scientists and Organizations prior to permitting them to post. We have online guidance to help Scientists and Organizations formulate their thoughts. We offer free editing assistance since most scientists are not trained to write engagingly using lay terminology. Once a final Scinopsis (scientific synopsis) is drafted, it’s posted to and we share it on social media to maximize its reach.

The motivation for Publiscize arose out of my frustration with the disconnect that exists between science and society. After much research, I found that the vast majority of science is hidden from society due to complex language. I am hoping Publiscize can help.

From The Lab Bench: How is Publiscize different from science blogs written by scientists about their work?

A scientist writing a blog post about their published research is very similar to a Scientist on Publiscize writing a Scinopsis. The main differences are that we help with the writing, we publicize the Scinopses and we provide a one-stop shop for enthusiasts to read about many different areas of science. I am trying to create a solution that empowers scientists to spend a small amount of time to reach a much bigger audience because most scientists do not engage in blogging about their research in lay terms. Publiscize also helps scientists learn about their own research. Most scientists have told me how much they have learned by writing about their own already-published research! Much of the learning is attributed to the assistance we provide. We show them where their jargon lies and how they can fix it. The hands-on experience really causes rapid learning and has been a great success thus far.

From The Lab Bench: How are you currently getting the word out to scientists to contribute to the site?

Word of mouth and social media, mainly. Our press in Inside Higher Ed and The Daily Dot also really helped reach an audience we had not yet met. Our early-adopters have been really helpful in spreading the word and providing insightful feedback.

From The Lab Bench: We certainly need more scientists talking about their work to wide audiences. But what would you say to journalists or science communicators who might be worried that scientists might oversell the results of their own research on the site? Are scientists encouraged to provide limitations or caveats about their research in the entries on the site?

The majority of scientists are acutely aware of the caveats and fine details of their research. All science featured on Publiscize is based on work that has already been published in a peer-reviewed article.

The few scientists that give scientists a "bad name" for misrepresenting their science are generally caught during a journal’s review of that science, not through a press release or blog post.  Nevertheless, we have implemented a "review" system that is available to Scientists to combat this type of issue. Scientists are allowed to vote on whether each Scinopsis matches the science in the linked journal article. If too many Scientists disapprove of the Scinopsis, then the Scinopsis is placed under review. Additionally, each Scinopsis contains a link to the published article.

From The Lab Bench: Are scientists encouraged to link to their full papers in their entries?

Yes; this is actually a requirement. If there is no paper that can be linked, then we will not accept the piece. We want each Scinopsis to serve as a synopsis for the scientists' journal article(s).

From The Lab Bench: How are entries by scientists edited on the site currently, and how will editing work in the future?

At this time, we edit the Scinopses offline through email with the Scientist. In the future, we plan to have software so that collaboration can occur through the web-platform.

From The Lab Bench: Can science journalists or science bloggers get involved?

Because Publiscize offers assistance to the scientists, we will always need the help of science journalists and bloggers. As we continue to grow, our editing staff will too, and we will be hiring science journalists as that happens.  Additionally, we’re hoping science journalists and science bloggers will find Publiscize useful for additional, unique content so that more than a small fraction of science is shared with the public.

Interviewee Bio: From the day Robert experienced a direct hit from Category 5 Hurricane Andrew in Miami, Fl when he was eight years old, he has been fascinated by weather. Robert studied Meteorology from the Pennsylvania State University, which led him to graduate school at Colorado State University where he continued his passion of learning about the atmosphere. During graduate school, Robert authored numerous scientific articles on thunderstorms, squall lines, and mineral dust in the atmosphere in respected peer-reviewed journals. After completing his Ph.D. in atmospheric science, Robert became frustrated with the disconnection between science research and the public. As such, he founded Publiscize to alleviate the problem and help educate society about the vast knowledge that isn't publicized. He is enthusiastic about making all scientific research accessible by the public.

Tell me what you think about this new platform. Will it be useful?