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“Marketing For Scientists” — Thinking Beyond Self-Promotion

When I speak with scientists and communications professionals at research institutions, they often compare distributing research work on digital and social media with “self-promotion”.

“Self-promotion, (however), is just thinking about yourself, whereas marketing is trying to understand what other people want and need,” said Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA who has written a book about “marketing for scientists”.

This series of articles published in Nature Materials from April 2012 provides excellent arguments as to why scientists (and research institutions!) need to rethink and adapt their communications strategy and turn it into a more consumer-focused approach, i.e., “science marketing”.

The series explores how marketing concepts could help researchers achieve various goals: get funding, make sure their work gets the attention it deserves, and increase the impact of research.

Reasons why this is important:

Today, researchers have to make their publications stand out from the stack of nearly 800,000 science and engineering manuscripts that are published each year, recent PhD graduates and postdocs face historically low employment prospects in academia, and principal investigators compete over shrinking government funding.

Only last year, the Dutch initiative Science Alliance organized the first international conference on science marketing, acknowledging that scientists need to deliver and communicate their results to a variety of different stakeholders, such as their colleagues, funding agencies, politicians, the media and the public.

Digital and social media make it easier for scientists to break out of the traditional science news cycle. “There have never been more tools available that allow scientists to communicate their research proactively,” wrote Martin Fenner in his article One-click science marketing.

One of the most basic online tools for branding is that of researcher profiles, which can serve as a first point of contact and a convenient hub that connects scientific works. Online data sharing may help colleagues or enable new collaborations. And for those with a more outgoing approach, communication is facilitated through social networks and blogs.

On the flipside, a study from 2009 showed that peer-review journal articles and professional presentations are still the two major methods used by researchers to distribute their work (Chen et al., 2010; CTSA Consortium 2008).

Hence, one of the key questions for me is how research institutions can better support scientists and communications professionals in leveraging new digital and social media to reach a wider audience and communicate the benefits and impact of research work more efficiently.

To be continued…

Useful online tools and services for scientists, the examples are either entirely free or available in a free version.

Keep reading


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