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From paper to press release: making your research accessible to the wider public

16 Jul

During the General Assembly, EGU Media and Communications Manager Bárbara Ferreira shared her science writing skills and media know-how in a workshop demonstrating how to write a  press release or post about the latest geoscience. Here are her take-home messages…

“When you communicate science, no one else is more important than your audience.” Bárbara opened with one of the most fundamental points of science writing – you have to keep your audience engaged, and pitch your explanation at the perfect level for your peers, the press or the general public, depending on who you’re shooting for. The other fundamental: “read the paper!” was quick to follow.

The abstract, introduction and conclusion tell you almost everything you need to know to share the science effectively, but important points can still be found in other parts of the paper. Read it thoroughly and unleash the highlights in your writing – explain what’s exciting about the research and why your audience would be interested in it.

Introduction to Science Communication: from paper to press release (or blog post). View the full presentation here. (Credit: Bárbara Ferreira)

The presentation. Click the image or follow this link to view the full presentation. (Credit: Bárbara Ferreira)

If you have time, get in touch with the author. Not only can they check you’ve hit all the main points in your article, but they can also provide you with some juicy quotes to make the piece that much richer.

So how should you structure your post or press release to make sure you keep your readers engaged? Start with the main points – but don’t overstate the findings – and then move on to why the research is important and what the implications of the findings are. More detailed explanations follow. The example below sums up what you need to get across in the beginning of the text, particularly if you’re writing a press release (journalists are always busy so need the essential information at the start).

Before they even get there though, your reader has to be hooked by the title – make it snappy!

The essentials of the introduction – particularly pertinent to press releases. (Credit: Bárbara Ferreira)

The essentials of the introduction – particularly pertinent to press releases. (Credit: Bárbara Ferreira)

You’ve got the structure sorted, but what about content? Here are some of Bárbara’s top tips:

  • Assume your reader knows nothing about the research, but don’t assume they won’t understand it
  • Aim for one idea per sentence and one concept per paragraph to get your message across without overloading your audience with information
  • If you need to use jargon, explain what it means, and keep acronyms to the barest minimum
  • Use metaphors and everyday examples to share your message

Unlike this string of dos and don’ts, your article shouldn’t be a steam of facts. Create a story to guide the reader through the findings and, if you can, add a human element to the tale so readers can relate to it all that little bit better.

Once you’re done, fact-check, edit, proof and publish.

There are no hard and fast rules for science writing – this only a guide to get you going. If every science piece or release was written the same way, well, reading them would become a bit monotonous wouldn’t it? Break these rules, make your own, and keep writing until you find your own signature science communication style.

By Sara Mynott, EGU Communications Officer

Resources:

Blogs and social media at the Assembly – tune in to the conference action

23 Apr

Blogging

GeoLog will be updated regularly throughout the General Assembly, highlighting some of the meeting’s most interesting sessions, workshops and lectures, as well as featuring interviews with scientists attending the Assembly.

Writers from the EGU Blog Network will also be posting about interesting research and sessions during the Assembly, so you can catch up on any sessions you’ve missed and get a feel for what’s going on in the press room through them!

As in previous years, the EGU will be compiling a list of General Assembly related blogs (the blogroll) and making them available through GeoLog. If you would like to contribute to GeoLog during the event please contact Sara Mynott at mynott@egu.eu. You can also add your blog to the blogroll here.

EGU social media

Tweeting

Participants can keep updated with General Assembly goings on by following the EGU twitter account (@EuroGeosciences) and the conference hashtag (#EGU2014). You can also direct questions to the EGU communications staff and other participants using #EGU2014, or by tweeting to @EuroGeosciences directly. If you’ve got the Assembly app, you can share snippets of great sessions straight from there!

This year, each of the programme groups also has its own hashtag, if you’re in a Geomorphology (GM) session, say GM2.1, you can tweet about it using #EGU14GM, or if you’re in one of the Educational and Outreach Symposia (EOS), use #EGU14EOS – just add the acronym to #EGU14! A full list of conference hashtags is available here, and in the programme book.

Some sessions also have their own hashtag including the Great Debates (GDB1#EGU14mine, GDB2: #EGU14geng), the Union Session on the IPCC results (US4: #EGU14IPCC) and the Face of the Earth Union Symposium (US3: #EGU14face). Make sure to tag your tweets accordingly if you are posting about these sessions! Conveners are welcome to add their own hashtags into the mix to! Just let everyone know at the start of the session.

The view from social media HQ at EGU 2012.

The view from social media HQ at EGU 2012.

And more!

While these will be the main media streams during the Assembly, you can also follow the European Geosciences Union on FacebookGoogle+LinkedIn and YouTube to keep up with us there!

Science bloggers – join the 2014 General Assembly blogroll!

5 Mar

Will you be blogging at the 2014 General Assembly? If so, sign up here and we’ll add you to our official blogroll. We will be compiling a list of blogs that feature posts about the EGU General Assembly and making it available on GeoLog, the official blog of the European Geosciences Union.

We’d ask you to write posts that relate directly to the Assembly during the conference in Vienna (27 April – 2 May). The content of each blog on this list is the responsibility of the authors and is not sanctioned by the EGU, but we will make details of all the blogs on the General Assembly blogroll available online.

If you would like your blog to feature on our list, please submit your blog details to us.

With free (and open!) wireless internet and plugin points available throughout the building and great science throughout the week; we’ve got everything you need to get blogging! International plug adapters can even be borrowed from the Austria Center Information Desk!

GeoLog will also be updated regularly during the General Assembly, featuring posts about scientific sessions, conference highlights and interviews with scientists at the meeting. If you would like to contribute to GeoLog, please pitch your idea to mynott@egu.eu. You may also use this address for any questions you might have about the blogroll.

Bridge the gap between geoscience and the general public. (Credit: Dario Zampieri, distributed by imaggeo.eu.eu)

Bridge the gap between geoscience and the general public. (Credit: Dario Zampieri, distributed by imaggeo.eu.eu)

GeoTalk: Flo Bullough from Four Degrees

22 Nov

This week in GeoTalk, we’re talking to Flo Bullough  Policy Assistant at the Geological Society who writes about both climate and policy at Four Degrees 

Hi Flo, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into science communication? 

I would say that science communication is something I have always done in my academic studies without having labelled it as such. I deliberately chose research topics that had a wider impact than the core research alone and I was always interested in disseminating my work more widely than the department or my supervisor. My work has always involved environmental and development issues (in water contamination and geochemistry) because I found that having a human angle or a real world application was an interesting driver. Now, in addition to the blog, in my role as a Policy Assistant I get to write documents for parliamentarians and the wider public disseminating geological information in an accessible way. Effective communication of science is a really rewarding part of the job, and when you have the potential to impact on policy; it’s a great incentive to get it right.

You recently started a series called “what’s geology got to do with it?” to show geoscience is relevant even when you might not expect it to be. How is geology relevant to society? 

For me, I think the question is almost how is it not relevant? Geology and its many sub-disciplines influence either directly or indirectly almost everything we use in our daily lives or that we see in the environment around us. In a very basic sense, geology relates to fundamental natural resources such as rocks, metals, water and fossil fuels. These sit at the base of the manufacturing industry and are important in terms of utilities, public services and just about anything you can think of. Their use, scarcity and extraction is also linked to many social, cultural and political situations which have direct links with the social sciences. It’s no secret that resource scarcity and climate change are going to have a threat multiplier effect on many of the biggest political & cultural issues we face around the world. I’m an advocate for approaching things in an interdisciplinary way and the more we highlight the interdependence and connectedness of different issues, the more widely these links will be understood.

Meet Flo! (Credit: Flo Bullough)

Meet Flo! (Credit: Flo Bullough)

In addition to blogging, you work full time as a Policy Assistant at the Geological Society of London, how do you keep on top of the latest research and policy developments? 

In the age of social media and widespread information generation and distribution, ‘staying on top’ of research and policy in its entirety is virtually impossible. At the Society, we are fortunate to have numerous and willing fellows who have expertise in an enormous variety of areas and so their input on current issues and responses we make is invaluable. We also have our own publishing house and an extensive events schedule that helps me keep on top of new research. So between those, the science media and social media I try to keep abreast of as much as possible.

Position statements are incredibly useful references for policymakers and stakeholder organisations. What goes into writing one? 

Position statements are an important part of our work and our interaction with the wider community and so understandably a lot of work goes into them. Hefty documents like the Society’s Climate Change statement have an expert working group made up of specialists from the fellowship who survey the current research before meeting to write the statement itself. The Geological Society doesn’t take a position on issues but instead strives to provide the best possible scientific evidence from the geological record and geoscience community, in order to promote the understanding of relevant scientific evidence to a wide range of decision-makers and stakeholders. Whether written by a working group or by Society staff like me, the document goes through a series of edits with experts in the field before being finalised.

Do you have any tips for scientists who what to bridge the gap between science and policy? 

I think science and policy is a fascinating subject but can be a difficult area of interest to access so I’ve collated a series of useful resources to feed even the most esoteric interest!

In political centres such as London there is a raft of evening talks and events that are often free – I would recommend attending! There is a Policy area on the Geological Society website which details all recent work we’ve been engaged in. As well as the Geological Society, the following institutes and departments are a good source of information and events:

There are also many publications and social media outlets which have a focus on science and policy, and the CaSE (Campaign for Science and Engineering) website is a great portal for news, events, blogs and jobs and details ways to get involved with science policy.

Flo’s recommended reading:

Feeling Inspired? Peruse Flo’s ponderings on climate and geoscience policy at: http://blogs.egu.eu/4degrees/.

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