EGU Blogs

Science Communication

From impact factors to impact craters

Day 2 in the Big Brother house (aka the European Geosciences Union General Meeting). There’s no where near enough beer, and tensions are getting high. A horde of angry horses have invaded the lower levels, and taken the President of Austria hostage, with demands of lowering the Fair Straw Tax.

But throughout all the acid-fuelled hysteria, two events have stuck out so far today. The first was a workshop discussion on open access publishing for early career researchers (ECRs), hosted by a new Editor for the EGU’s publishing house, Copernicus. Unfortunately, this event confirmed a lot of the current issues with the development of open access policies globally, in that there has been a serious communications breakdown about the effects the policy transitions, particularly in the UK now that Research Councils UK’s (RCUK) open access policy has come into play (April 1st), will have on how and where ECRs can publish. Here are comments on several of the more prevalent points raised:

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DINOSAUR! But what does it mean..?

Palaeontology probably isn’t the most difficult of sciences, but it does incorporate aspects of chemistry, biology, and physics to a certain degree, as with many other geoscientific disciplines. Palaeontologists are also well known for the mysterious and unintelligible ‘science-speak’ that they use in research papers, fueled by this combination of a multitude of various sciences, the insane taxonomic system that we employ to identify fossils, and the standard anatomical descriptive phrasing too. I guess the aim of this series of posts, is just to break down some of the more complex terminology that you may come across online or in papers, and gain a bit more of an understanding of Palaeontology and related fields in the process. Yeah, it’s pretty much a glossary. With dinosaurs. Suggestions for words welcomed!

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Virtual Palaeontology – taking science communication to the next level

I recently wrote a small series about how geoscientists can become more effective communicators of scientific knowledge to the general public, and the pitfalls and issues associated with this. The overall strategy revolved around using the right type of language, along with a context and narrative to create relevant stories, but above all this, to just go out there and do it! That’s exactly what Imran Rahman has done, except he’s gone a huge step further taken palaeontology and science communication into the digital age!

In a new paper, Imran, along with two others, demonstrates the value of using ‘virtual fossils’ as a tool for science communication, I guess specifically to palaeontology, but there’s no reason why other fields cannot adopt (or already have done) similar methods. The use of digital palaeontology has been ongoing for quite a while now within the scientific community, with virtual reconstructions ranging from hadrosaur skulls using CT-scanning (computed tomography – the same process they use to peer inside you in hosptials) to early molluscs and arthropods using a process known as serial grinding. As such, it is pervasive throughout palaeontology, but has never really taken flight and been introduced to the public as an engagement resource.

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