Alberto Sánchez Romero

Opinion article

Science dissemination is the effort to transmit to society (the general public) knowledge generated by science. It is motivated by the intention to bring scientific knowledge to people interested in understanding or learning about these issues.

Dissemination aims at explaining current scientific discoveries and established or socially accepted theories. Its objective is to make scientific knowledge accessible to everybody, beyond the purely academic world. Scientific dissemination is a task undertaken by writers, scientists, museums, and media journalists.

And in this era, that of social media, we cannot help but think of the role that social media have played in disseminating scientific knowledge to the general public. And it is not an easy task since many factors make this endeavor not as simple as it seems.

Who has achieved it?

Throughout the years, there have been “champions” of scientific dissemination. People who have left the laboratory to get closer to the general public and share with them this beloved but sometimes misunderstood element called “science”.

Carl Sagan

Before social media, there was Carl Sagan. He gained great popularity thanks to the TV documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Journey, which was produced in 1980. Sagan was its narrator and co-author. He also published a great number of scientific articles.

Sagan also wrote more than 20 popular science books, the most popular being Cosmos, published as a complement to the series, and Contact, on which the 1997 film of the same title is based. In 1978 he won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction Literature for his book The Dragons of Eden.

Throughout his life, Sagan received numerous awards for his work as a disseminator of science and culture. Today, he is considered one of the most charismatic and influential science communicators, thanks to his ability to convey scientific ideas and cultural knowledge to the general public with simplicity, but at the same time with scientific accuracy.

Bill Nye

Bill Nye, popularly known as “The Science Guy,” is a science educator, television host, and mechanical engineer. He is famous for being the host of the children’s science program “Bill Nye, the Science Guy,” as well as for his many later appearances in the media as a science educator. He has written several popular science books.

In recent times Bill Nye has taken an activist stance in defense of science on social media. Even an American pastor publicly challenged him to debate the theory of evolution. Nye agreed to conduct such a debate and caused a great stir on social media.

Ars Technica

Ars Technica is a blog about technology and science with a critical and fun approach. It publishes news, reviews, and guides on topics such as hardware and software, science, technology policy, and video games.

This blog contains long and detailed articles. Their writers are experts on each topic and some of them work for research centers. Their articles have a very clear position before controversies, unlike other media such as newspapers or magazines that are more neutral.

Ars Technica is one of the most popular and viewed publications of science dissemination through social media.

The communicator’s weapons in the era of social media

Social media, new technologies, and convergent media are the tools of the 21st-century communicator. As Charles Darwin concluded in his study of natural selection – a being that does not adapt to the environment becomes extinct.

Inertia is an intrinsic part of both organizations and people. We have been doing things in a certain way for years and even decades. And it is difficult for us to adapt to the rapid and frequent advances and changes that the Internet brings along with it.

The millennial generation has different habits and ways of consuming information from those of past generations. And this is the challenge of the scientific disseminator – to achieve a transcendent connection with these new and current generations.

 Forge a personality

To be honest, scientific data may seem boring to the majority of young generations. And that’s natural because children and teens seek stimulating and fun content.

For the disseminator to be able to communicate with people, he needs to expose part of his identity to the public. Build an “avatar” to interact with people and become an “acquaintance”.

People pay more attention to a person than to a brand. A face is more attractive than a logo. To create a transcendent relationship, the disseminator must become a “friend” through new digital media.

Just as Carl Sagan and Bill Nye, disseminators should build their personal brand. And in this way, capture and retain the attention of all current and potential audiences of scientific dissemination.

Omnipresence through omnichanneling

The Internet has become more complex. Hundreds of applications and communication platforms with innovative features appear every year. And the communicator must know how to integrate them if he wants to remain relevant.

Now, the flow of content is achieved through multiple platforms, but not in linear order but in a scheme called “omnichannel”.

The consumer of digital content has a wide range of sources – social networks, videos, e-mail, chat, online stores, etc. The challenge for us is to be present on the key platforms and make them all work in harmony.

All our social profiles must be linked to a personal blog or website. We should concentrate all our information there and list our profiles on social networks. We must have Google Analytics installed on our personal site to know which social network generates more traffic and focus on it.

Digital consumers use several computer networks. We have to weave our own network to engage the audience and get them to follow us through our social profiles. Thus, our direct communication network will grow over time.

The challenge for the scientific communicator

As a disseminator of science, your mission is to study the great names of the past- Carl Sagan, Bill Nye, and even Jules Verne, who through his “fantastic” stories inspired scientists to make their stories come true, which resulted in the electric submarine and the trips to the moon.

You will need to create a public personality where you expose a human side for Internet users to create a meaningful connection with you. Over time, you will increase your number of followers, and thus, scientific dissemination will reach your community.

You will create profiles with your personal brand on the social networks that your target community frequents the most. You will place a link from your social networks to your blog or website. This way you will have a base where you will consolidate all your digital properties and show the links to all your social profiles in one place.

Being a scientific disseminator is not an easy task. It requires dedication and constant updating in digital communication platforms. But with a passion for science and discipline, you can also be a champion of scientific dissemination, on your own merits.

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About the author

Alberto Sánchez Romero holds a degree in Communication Sciences from Tecnológico de Monterrey and a certificate in Computer Science for Business from HarvardX.

He is currently a marketing and online business consultant at Galabyte Consulting. He writes about innovation and entrepreneurship on his blog BetoSanro.com

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