No matter what kind of work you’re doing, it is important to know how to effectively communicate your research. Last Tuesday, NC State’s Research Leadership Academy hosted a forum at Hunt Library on communicating your research featuring a panel of researchers and practitioners from various diverse fields.
- Derek Ham from the College of Design,
- Katie Mack from the Department of Physics (& public science cluster),
- Adrian Smith from the Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research Lab (and a cluster affiliate),
- Matt Shipman, Research Communications Lead (surprise–another cluster affiliate)
Below are some of the main points that I drew from these experienced science communicators that can be helpful to emulate when communicating your own research.
- Social media is a relevant and valuable way to convey your research.
When a researcher leverages social media to communicate what they are studying, they are able to cast a “wide net with high impact.” Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, are able to reach a broader and younger audience, including university students. The casual nature of most social media platforms might seem like an odd choice to communicate scholarly research, but its casual nature might be the key to its effectiveness. “Twitter is easy.” Mack, an active user of Twitter, stated. “You can say quick thoughts, and you can throw in links or photos.” According to Mack, social media is appealing because it is interactive, relatively low effort, and it allows for immediate feedback.
- Figure out how to be an effective storyteller of your research.
While Mack prefers to communicate her research on Twitter, Smith enjoys using media and video to show others what he is working on. His advice is to determine what your skills are and to then pick a medium that works best. According to Smith, as a researcher deciding how to communicate your work, you should ask yourself…
- What could I be most effective at?
- What will I get the most satisfaction out of?
- If it doesn’t find an audience, is it still something that I want to pursue?
Part of being an effective storyteller is determining the way that you want the story to be portrayed. Derek Ham’s area of expertise is in design, therefore Instagram is an appealing medium to use to present his work. In contrast, Mack’s work in physics is with equations and graphs, things that wouldn’t be “pretty” on Instagram. As a communicator, it is important to evaluate your work and decide what medium can portray your work well and emphasize its strengths.
- Be genuine and be engaged.
For communication to be effective, the researcher has to be engaged in what they are communicating. Excitement is contagious, and the best way to gather an audience is to portray excitement about your work. So join conversations, contribute to other people’s stuff, and integrate yourself into a community. It will be beneficial to yourself and the community that you immerse yourself in. Pay attention to the things that are popular and get shared often, and attempt to emulate that in what you decide to post.
- Know who you are communicating with and how to communicate with them.
Each platform has its own individual culture, so it is vital to know what culture is embedded in the social media platform that you are using. On social media, the narrative can quickly shift and words can easily be misinterpreted. To avoid this, it is important for research communicators to consider the ways that their words could go wrong. Be as clear and concise as possible. “It is always good to give things a second thought, so I often draft things and sit on them for a little while,” stated Mack.
- Utilize your resources.
Whether you want to use a quick tweet, a cool video, or a LinkedIn article to communicate your research, there are plenty of resources provided by NC State to help. Check in here with Leadership in Public Science cluster, and consult the University Communications, the Libraries, and all the people that are part of NC State’s community. There are so many resources at our fingertips to take advantage of at NC State, so make sure to use them!