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science

My film is ready, now what?

My film is ready, now what?

It’s no secret that at EGU we believe using film as a medium to communicate science and engage the public with research is a great tool! So much so that we organise an annual competition for early career scientists (ECS) to produce a three-minute video to share their research with the general public, as well as publishing film how-to-guides on our blog and organising film-making workshops at our General Assembly (GA).

The film-making workshops of 2014 and 2015 focused on how to make a film: from producing the script right through to aspects of editing and post-production. This year, the workshop was delivered by Stefan Ruissen, an online & cross media specialist, and centred on how scientists can raise the profile of their film work. In today’s post, we highlight some of the main points from the workshop and share Stefan’s slides with you too.

The fact that rich-media and video has grown to form an integral part of conveying a message, be it a news story, a funny meme, or capturing moments of our everyday life should not be underestimated. Harnessing the growing popularity of video when it comes to helping you tell the narrative of your research is crucial!

Video and social media

Social media channels mean that the possibilities to communicate and share the film you invested so much time in creating have multiplied. An important take-home message from the 2014 workshop was knowing your audience: whom are you producing the film for and what message do you want them to take away from it?

Knowing your audience is vitally important when getting your work out there too– where is the most likely place you’ll find your audience: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, via a blog? Spend some time trying to work this out, both in the planning stages of film-making and once your video is ready.

Social media generates opportunities to share your film with a broad audience. Identify which channels are the best ones to reach your audience and tap into your existing networks for maximum impact.

Social media generates opportunities to share your film with a broad audience. Identify which channels are the best ones to reach your audience and tap into your existing networks for maximum impact.

And while social media generates so many opportunities to share your film, how people are consuming content online is also changing. In the past users would actively search for content they wanted to read about or watch; now a day, most content arrives at people’s doorsteps through algorithms curated by social media channels. This means that, not only is it important to get your film ‘out there’, you’ve also got to get it noticed.

So, once you’ve identified the best platforms to use, post the content and don’t forget to engage with your audience! Be sure to start a conversation and be part of it. You will most passionately tell your story, so use every opportunity to drum up further interest in your film.

Tips

  • Get noticed in on-line searches: When planning your film, think carefully about the title and once it is finished, invest time in preparing a description text and key words
  • Be prepared: Have a set of promotional materials to hand, inc. a film summary, stills from your video and a short trailer
  • YouTube: simply uploading your video is not enough. Social media 101 says your film should come complete with description, a link to further information/the film page (if available) and don’t forget a catchy preview image to hook viewers
  • Twitter: exploit your existing network, or spend time building links with relevant peers and organisations who can further your work. The same is true for hashtags – reach a bigger audience by tapping into # and using mentions
  • Facebook: Combine all your posts with stills or a trailer of your film (that’s where that preparation of promo materials comes in handy!)
  • Ask your audience: Put yourself in the shoes of your audience, how would you find new science related content? If you aren’t sure, speak to your audience, they’ll likely give you a few pointers!

Making your video isn’t the half of it: while there is no doubt that you should concentrate your efforts on planning, shooting and editing your video, save some energy to develop a strategy which will allow you to disseminate your film work effectively. For more details on how to best achieve this, why not take a look at Stefan’s presentation?

By Laura Roberts Artal, EGU Communications Officer

This blog post is based on the presentation by Stefan Ruissen at the Short Course: Scientists must film! (SC47) which took place at the 2016 EGU General Assembly in Vienna. The full presentation can be accessed here.

Open geoscience

Not so long ago I was in a meeting with EGU’s young scientist representatives, who had gathered online to discuss the issues facing those early in their academic careers. One member of this dedicated team put forward a compelling notion: that the future of open access is in the hands of today’s early-career researchers. This post aims to answer the question that followed: “how could EGU’s team of eager early-career researchers help their peers grab hold of the open opportunities out there?” by offering up a few routes to open science…

A lot of hard work, carefully created figures and data don’t make it to your publications, but they are still a useful part of the scientific process and can help other scientists if they can see what you found. A great way to share this sort of information is on Figshare – and it’s citable too.

The same goes for conference presentations – don’t let them gather dust on your desktop. The aim of a conference is to share your work more widely, so, when you’re done, put your slides up on sites like SlideShare to share it beyond the conference. Keep your contact details in the presentation and you could find yourself with new collaborators.

Open the doors to more collaborative geoscience. (Credit: Oxyman)

Open the doors to more collaborative geoscience. (Credit: Oxyman)

Posters can be made open too. After our annual General Assembly, we invite authors to upload their posters and presentations, but there’s no need to restrict your openness to the EGU conference. F1000 posters is an open access repository for posters in biology, so if your work bridges the biogeosciences, be sure to submit it there. If you’re in another field, try Figshare (despite the name, it’s not just for figures!).

The EGU offers a number of open access journals for the Earth, planetary and space sciences, but there are many more journals where you can publish your work, if the scope of EGU journals doesn’t quite cover your field. The American Geosciences Institute hosts a comprehensive list of open geo journals on their website, and the Directory of Open Access Journals is exactly what it says on the tin – a hub of high quality open access publications. The stringent criteria required to enter their database means that predatory open access journals are filtered out.

But what about impact? Going open doesn’t mean lower impact, in fact, with your paper being openly available to all, it’s more likely to be seen and cited, so the impact at the article level could well be higher than if it was in a subscription-based publication. You can track the impact of your research outputs using ImpactStory, or by using the Altmetric bookmarklet to keep tabs on more than just citations, from where it’s featured in news articles and blog posts to where it’s been mentioned on social media and more.

Don’t let your work gather dust. (Credit: How Matters)

Don’t let your work gather dust, share it. (Credit: How Matters)

The European Research Council considers that providing free online access to publications is the most effective way of ensuring that the fruits of the research it funds can be accessed, read and used as the basis for further research. Many funders are also moving in this direction, providing further incentive to publish open access papers.

When your manuscript is ready, submit it to a preprint server (e.g., arxiv.org, peerj.com, or biorxiv.org). EGU papers have an open review process, which helps ensure the assessment of a submitted manuscript is thorough and fair, but it also means that the science is out in the open sooner – the merit of a preprint. This helps establish precedence, highlighting that you were working on something first, and can remove barriers to scientific progress (we all know peer review can take a while!). Some establishments aren’t a fan of this though; so before you put a preprint online, check Sherpa/Romeo to make sure your institute, funding body and the journal(s) you’re interested in are on board with the benefits of preprints.

Models are near ubiquitous in the geosciences and their importance in assessing the impact of climate change goes without saying. But what if you couldn’t replicate the results of, say, an important climate model? You would need to go back to the model’s code and see where your calculations and the ones before differed. Sharing code is compulsory for journals like Geoscientific Model Development, but many don’t stipulate the need to share it. You can go one step further to help your community by sharing your code on GitHub, whether it’s compulsory for your latest article or not.

Free the work from your desktop folders. (Credit: opensource.com)

Free the work from your desktop folders. (Credit: opensource.com)

With all these opportunities to go open, wouldn’t it be great if you had an opportunity to keep track of all your outputs? There’s an answer for that too – ORCID. ORCID is a unique researcher identifier that links all your research outputs, from manuscripts and conference abstracts to grant submissions and research figures, ensuring you get credit for the work you do.

For something less formal, but perhaps more open in that you can go beyond the academic community, try blogging about your research – we readily welcome guest posts here on GeoLog, but there are many places you can set your science free. Try The Conversation, SciLogs, pitching your idea to another geoscience blogger or better yet, establishing your own blog to write on. You can also go further to promote your research and facts about your field on social media – a great way to form connections with other academics and put your work in the public eye.

These are just a few thoughts on open geoscience, but there are likely more ways go open than could ever be summarised in a single post. Take this is a starting point, seek out more options for yourself, and, if you already have a few tips on how to make geoscience more open, spread the word.

By Sara Mynott, EGU Communications Officer

If you have any thoughts on other ways geoscientists can move towards open science, please add your thoughts to the comment thread below. 

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

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:

GeoEd: Get ‘em when they’re young

There’s a lot of emphasis on outreach to older students, i.e. those who are contemplating further education and may well wish to pursue a career in science, but shouldn’t we also target our efforts at the younger generation? Sam Illingworth highlights the importance of outreach to primary school kids – and of catching them at an age when they’re most likely to be inspired…

From my experiences working in schools across the UK, there has been a rather biased drive to deliver educational outreach to students that are either coming to the end of their compulsory education, or who are about to decide what to study at university.

However, to me this appears to be a somewhat backward approach. Yes, it is important to target students with stimulating outreach activities that inspire them to study a geosciences-related degree at university, but many of these students will already have had to make some selections regarding the speciality of their education, even at this early age.

In the UK, at the age of 16, students are asked to choose (usually) between 3 and 5 subjects to study for a further two years, a decision that will have major implications for their university education. In reality, for many students the choice of pursuing a broad scientific education occurred even earlier, with many UK students given the option at 14 of replacing some of their science lessons with those from other subjects.

Because of this early selective branching, it can often be very difficult to change the mindset of a teenager that has already taken the decision to less actively pursue the sciences in their studies. Whilst this model is not in place across the whole of Europe, it is certainly true that there is more of a focus on depth rather than breadth as a student’s education progresses. Furthermore, research suggests that for many pupils the dissatisfaction with science sets in at the end of their primary school (10-11) years.

The brain is far more impressionable in earlier life than in maturity, and with increasing age, the ability to learn and to be influenced declines. Peak impressionability is between the ages of zero and three, and it begins to taper off significantly after the age of eight. Therefore, in order to encourage as many students as possible to actively pursue a broad scientific education it is important to instil a fascination and desire to do science at an early age.

The impressionable youth. (Credit: Sharon  Peters)

The impressionable youth. (Credit: Sharon Peters)

Targeting students between the ages of 5 and 11 requires a slightly different approach to working with teenagers, but many of the core principals remain the same, with the students needing to be both educated and engaged.

In educating the students, it is very important not to work with a deficit model, an idea that focuses on the students’ lack of knowledge, rather than a student-centeredness approach based around the understanding of the learner and the learning process. In my opinion the use of a deficit approach to outreach is akin to the feeling you get when a car mechanic sighs at your understanding of spark plugs; it is not a very positive experience to be told that you do not know something!

Instead, if we use an approach that focuses on what the students have already learnt in class and on concepts and items that they understand and are familiar with, then this can reinforce the work we are doing, and will leave the students feeling empowered and therefore far more willing to contribute. For example, in a recent activity that I ran for a group of seven-year old pupils I wanted to teach them about how to conduct a scientific experiment. Knowing that the notion of a fair test was a part of the curriculum I developed an activity that saw the students squashing bananas, weighing them before and after, and recording their results in a scientific manner. The students were then able to build on their knowledge base of what constituted a fair test to learn about the scientific process, using equipment (bananas and weighing scales) that they were familiar with.

Outreach activities that build on a previous knowledge base can be far more engaging than those built around a deficit model. (Credit: Louise Bousfield)

Outreach activities that build on a previous knowledge base can be far more engaging than those built around a deficit model. (Credit: Louise Bousfield)

In order to engage with younger students it is advisable to make the outreach activity as practical and interactive as possible. A recent report from the UK’s Wellcome Trust found (not surprisingly) that young people enjoy practical activities in which they can actively get involved rather than just watch. That being said, from personal experience there is still room for traditional assembly-style presentations, providing that the students are kept involved and that there are lots of opportunities for questions!

I recently gave a school assembly to around 150 students, between the ages of five and eleven on the subject of ‘Who is a Scientist?’ The assembly lasted for about an hour, including twenty-five minutes of open-ended questions, and could have gone on for much longer; in fact, I only had to stop taking questions so that the students were able to leave school on time!

School assemblies are a great opportunity to engage with a large number of students. (Credit: Sam Illingworth)

School assemblies are a great opportunity to engage with a large number of students. (Credit: Sam Illingworth)

Working with younger children can be a liberating and exhilarating experience. They are yet to develop the cynicism and awkwardness that can sometimes make engaging with older children so energy zapping. They can also surprise you in the most wonderful ways; in the assembly that I mentioned above one softly spoken student asked me ‘Why, if human[s] evolved from monkeys are there still monkeys?’

Carefully developed outreach activities can educate and engage younger students, thereby instilling a love of science at this early and impressionable age. Such activities can have a large influence on the degree to which they decide to sustain their scientific educations, which will ultimately have a profound effect on them far beyond the confines of the classroom.

By Sam Illingworth, Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University

References:

Clemence, M., N. Gilby, J. Shah, J. Swiecicka, and D. Warren: Wellcome Trust Monitor: wave 2 tracking public views on science, biomedical research and science education report, Wellcome Trust, 2014

Osborne, J., & Dillon, J.: Science education in Europe: Critical reflections. London: The Nuffield Foundation, 2008

UNICEF: The Importance of Early Childhood Development, 12 October 2008. Accessed 5 June 2014.

Ziman, J.: Public understanding of science, Science, Technology & Human Values, 16(1), 99-105, 1991