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Science marketing and science communication – a breath of fresh air in an ivory tower

What do marketing and science have in common? It is a question posed by many scientists. Yet answers vary widely. The aim of science marketing and science communication is to bring issues of research and scholarship to the wider public.

Any discussion of the place of science in society seems almost bound to involve the use of cliché. Most popular of all, of course, is the image of eccentric academics pursuing their research with scant regard for practical matters, cut off from the rest of society in their ivory tower. But the truth is that science is often difficult to understand. Academics develop a language of their own and the terminology they use is often known only within a particular specialism. Moreover, scientists have their own peculiar way of conveying information. Every statement must be supported and backed up by sources. After all, the principal aim is to persuade colleagues and experts from other disciplines of the validity of the research and its conclusions.

When scientists try to communicate with the wider public, the language they use is often incomprehensible. In such cases proper science communication in the form of journalistic articles or via interactive media channels can help to achieve the required knowledge transfer and instigate dialogue between research and society. Because public recognition for the work of scientists and their findings is absolutely essential for the way science is perceived. When scientific research and its results are well founded and coherently presented, acceptance and funding are assured. Professional science marketing is even more crucial in this context.

Science marketing: attention at any price?

Marketing is essential if you want to get noticed: it is something the Norwegian palaeontologist Jørn Hurum knows only too well. He represents the ‘high profile’ approach to science marketing and in 2009 organised the spectacular presentation of a well-preserved fossil, which was widely reported in many key media. Under headlines such as ‘Missing link in human evolution’, ‘Eighth wonder of the world’, and ‘Rewriting of evolutionary history’, Hurum and his team attracted global media attention. However, the simplification and dramatisation of his research findings upset professional colleagues, who saw his discovery as rather more mundane.

Swedish Professor Hans Rosling is proof of the fact that marketing works without such spectacular attention-seeking. He is a master of science communication and has the ability to communicate his findings even to non-scientists in a lively and stimulating way. Using a computer programme developed by his son, Rosling is able to present his statistics so effectively that the scientific content of his presentations can be grasped immediately.

Wanted – academics

If your scientific findings are about to change the world, then the world needs to hear about them. But how do you go about communicating scientific findings? It couldn’t be easier: by publishing your paper in the ‘Facets of Science’ community group at the Alumniportal Deutschland.

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Science communication: fostering the art of presentation

Without question, the ability to make research findings comprehensible to a wider public is now increasingly important for scientists. A competition for young scientists, designed to foster presentation skills, was organised for the first time in Germany in 2006. Students and young scientists have ten minutes to explain their research topics to a non-scientific audience at the Science Slam. The presentation is marked on information content, scientific and entertainment value.

The Science Slam was inspired by FameLab, a competition for science communication launched in the United Kingdom in 2005 and now staged in more than 20 countries worldwide. The first FameLab in Germany was held in 2011. Presentations are limited to three minutes and must be given without the use of props such as PowerPoint. Creativity and expertise are also called for in order to win a FameLab prize.

Scientists and their findings are more likely to be heard in society with professional science marketing and the right communication techniques. Do you want to bring a little fresh air to the ivory tower? And would you like to explain your scientific findings to non-experts? No problem! Why not try your own science marketing: simply upload an interesting text, a photo reportage or a short video about your scientific work to the group ‘Facets of Science’ – and we’ll take care of the rest.

The Einsteinmobil

An example of effective science communication is the Einsteinmobil. Artewis is a company that promotes and advises on strategies such as ‘public science’.

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Discussion in the Community

How can scientific findings be communicated to a wider public in a down-to-earth and comprehensible way? Is there such a thing as an entertaining scientific presentation? How do you grab the listener’s attention in a presentation? Top-class entertainment: how to make scientific publications a genuine audience magnet? Does anyone have tips for their own presentation?

Join the discussion with other alumni on science marketing and science communication in our community group ‘Facets of Science’!

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Author: Sabine Müller

September 2012

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