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Science Communications for Science Professionals

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A presentation provided on june 13, 2017 for postdoctoral researchers and graduate students at the University of Florida. The topic covers aspects of science communication that scientists don't normally consider. We're good at talking to each other, but not to non-scientists. Here are some strategies to improve that bottleneck.

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Science Communications for Science Professionals

  1. 1. Counterintuitive Science Communications Strategies Trust, and Getting Out of Your Tribe Kevin M. Folta Professor and Chairman Horticultural Sciences Department kfolta.blogspot.com @kevinfolta kfolta@ufl.edu www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com
  2. 2. Think of something you deeply believe.
  3. 3. Think of something you deeply believe. What would move you to change those beliefs?
  4. 4. How do we change minds in a world of entrenched views?
  5. 5. How do we change minds in a world where bad information is everywhere, and people only accept the information that is consistent with their beliefs?
  6. 6. Facts do not matter without trust.
  7. 7. How do we teach concepts in: Biotechnology? Medicine? Vaccines? Climate? Evolution? Others? University? Public Audience? On-line?
  8. 8. Today: Trust. Why don’t scientists have it, how do we earn it? How to engage the public; where to do it
  9. 9. People are seeking honest answers about science, medicine, food and farming and don’t know who to trust.
  10. 10. What’s the formula? Know your audience, choose the right audience Practice active listening Lead with your values Use evidence only when rapport is established, and then use evidence that reinforces common values
  11. 11. Consumers are reacting to information Pesticides Antibiotics Hormones Fertilizer Gluten Neonics GMO Dihyrogen monoxide BPA MSG Understanding makes me a better consumer. I don’t know what to believe, so I just won’t buy it.
  12. 12. Why do people react the way they do? The brain can be functionally divided into two decision-making systems. Fear and emotional messaging appeals to one of these systems– less processing. Facts don’t matter until you’ve achieved rapport
  13. 13. WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE? Most people are concerned about food and health. They are seeking answers and are not sure who to trust. They make choices based on values, lifestyle, precaution. WHO IS NOT YOUR AUDIENCE? Many have no interest in understanding facts. They are not a good investment of your time.
  14. 14. Must start with empathyMust start with empathy Active listeningActive listening Others have to feel a sense ofOthers have to feel a sense of power and control in thepower and control in the conversationconversation Intellectual CharityIntellectual Charity Only move to next steps onceOnly move to next steps once you understand their concerns,you understand their concerns, and they know it.and they know it. LISTENING
  15. 15. Lead With Your Ethics.Lead With Your Ethics.
  16. 16. FEAR FACTS EMOTION vs. EVIDENCE Activist groups, fragile celebs with empires, etc Scientists, farmers, ag industry ERODE TRUST One-off studies, misinterpretation, extrapolation, poor quality, bad design, weak stats, unpublished. Facty-Looking Things
  17. 17. Next, what are your priorities? Farmers The Needy Environment/Conservation Consumers
  18. 18. Old Way of Engaging Engage deniers. Here are the facts. Here’s where you are wrong Ugh, you don’t get it.
  19. 19. Old Way of Engaging Engage deniers. Here are the facts. Here’s where you are wrong Ugh, you don’t get it. New Way of Engaging Engage the curious. I’m listening. Why do you feel this way? I understand why you’d feel this way, right? Here’s what is important to me. Here is the evidence that supports my values.
  20. 20. Comments sections, twitter feeds, Facebook threads You must be in that space Get out of the tribe Remember your audience The Internet is a Spectator Sport
  21. 21. Remember Your Audience
  22. 22. I don’t know what to believe, so I just won’t buy it. Define your audience Practice active listening with charity Share values Respond to criticism and make comments visibly– remember the audience
  23. 23. We have turned a corner. Science enthusiasts, skeptics, nerds, science writers, etc., understand the broad discussion on genetic engineering.
  24. 24. People are seeking honest answers about food and farming and don’t know who to trust. • Practice Radical Transparency • Accessibility (dealing with real person) • Easy on the snark • Listen, share values • Be careful with criticism of perceived halos • Avoid hyperbole • Discuss strengths and weaknesses • High roads.
  25. 25. There are two major ways we participate in media / social media messages 1.Content share with 1000 2.Amplification share with 1000
  26. 26. The Power of Amplification and Networks Pre-Internet Now 10 k contacts Expert Expert
  27. 27. The Power of Amplification and Networks Pre-Internet Now 10 k contacts Expert Expert Now 10 k contacts Expert X X X
  28. 28. Reach Out Beyond Your Echo Chamber (build trust in non-traditional venues)
  29. 29. Reach Out Beyond Your Echo Chamber First realize that you might be in one. How can you become the trusted source of information outside of your tribe?
  30. 30. The Power of Amplification via Networks
  31. 31. The Power of Amplification via Networks
  32. 32. Reach Out Beyond Your Tribe
  33. 33. How do you earn trust, and then take that trust to a new tribe? Strive to: •Be the dietitian expert in the foodie tribe. •Be the scientist that talks to athletes. •Be the farmer with “mom bloggers” •Be the university scientist that agrees to sit on the Vaxxed screening panel. Who needs your expertise? Pick one. Go there. Preaching to a New Congregation
  34. 34. Obtain a separate email account for this work. Free ones at gmail, yahoo, etc. Use your real name. Develop a professional Facebook page, make your personal one private THREE POINTS-- Content, Amplification, Network Earning Trust.
  35. 35. How do you get into those tribes? CONTENT: Offer to write for them Participate in the discussion sections of news articles and websites. Share your stories and experiences.
  36. 36. Circulation = 1 million subscribers
  37. 37. Circulation = 1 million subscribers
  38. 38. Received several email inquiries with specific questions.
  39. 39. Circulation = 1 million subscribers
  40. 40. Share Science- New ways to play with your food Many opportunities here in Alachua County!
  41. 41. Use Social Media to Reach New Tribes with Crossover Topics Over 500,000 downloads Coffee episode, dog domestication, cancer immunotherapies, are great content to introduce to broader audiences.
  42. 42. Amplification You can make a tremendous difference by staying current in the news and amplifying important messages. News, blogs, scientific findings, reports…. Share!
  43. 43. Disagreement Harassment Threats Doxxing Veiled Direct Inciting others Talking action Provocation
  44. 44. Dealing with Trolls If you are doing anything noteworthy you will become a target. The trick is not becoming a victim. Don’t take it personally. They hate your message, your work, not you. Know the difference between disagreement and harassment
  45. 45. Dealing with Trolls Most suggest “don’t feed a troll” Not responding is thought of as surrendering Really tough for educators to “let it go” You are not going to change their minds
  46. 46. Dealing with Trolls Respond twice kindly. Enjoy liberal use of the block/mute functions Advanced users– use their momentum to demonstrate to your audience how you take the high road.
  47. 47. Dealing with Trolls Some are unsinkable. They monitor your work and are sure to always add disparaging remarks. If you block users, they put on a different sock puppet.
  48. 48. Kristen V. Brown Active Listening Invite them to take it to another forum
  49. 49. Kristen V. Brown and hostile trolling. Violated Terms of Service Can be reported to law enforcement. But it can also be used to illustrate what we deal with in providing media.
  50. 50. Dealing with Trolls Ignoring, blocking, is okay. It removes them from that forum but they continue in other places. Recognize them, but do not address them. -- Take the high road -- Address the situation, not the person -- Take leadership. Request that others do not engage, etc.
  51. 51. The Value of High Roads
  52. 52. DEVELOPING YOUR BRAND EXPLO ITING NEW TO O LS TO STAND O UT Kevin M. Folta, Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. USA
  53. 53. A CHALLENGING TIME Universities are in a buyer’s market Startup packages are scary low Lower funding rates Higher bar for publication Higher costs of student support Older students and postdocs Low-hanging fruits are few and far between Increasingly difficult to find your niche
  54. 54. WHAT THE MARKET LOOKS LIKE HOW DO YOUDIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF INATOUGH FIELD? Surprisingly easy – Do something. Everyone must have publications, has trained students, maybe taught a course, maybe has written/received grants. It is not about hiring good scientists, it is about hiring good people Your job needs to be identifying low life/time impact, but have high visibility and contribute to your scientific brand Consistent production of incremental
  55. 55. WHY TALK ABOUT BRANDING? THIS IS SCIENCE, NOT BUSINESS. Like it or not, in the age of the internet, you are brand. You cannot separate your personal and professional self as easily. People are using the internet to learn more about you, make decisions about you. How can you leverage that to present a powerful, positive projection?
  56. 56. WHY TALK ABOUT BRANDING? THIS IS SCIENCE, NOT BUSINESS. You are not just a potential employee. You are a motivated, visible, multi-faceted contributor You generate interest You interact and reach out to atypical communities You’ve demonstrated a commitment to public understanding of science You’ve shown persistent production of a quality product What does it say about your values?
  57. 57. MANDATORY PROFESSIONAL PRESENCE YOUMUST BE VISIBLE INWEBSPACE • You must have complete and updated profiles on: Research Gate Linked in Facebook (public figure website)
  58. 58. DEVELOP YOUR PROGRAM SEEKNATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL DISTINCTION EARLY • Set it up • Do an amazing job • Use social media to promote the work before it happens, and then use it to show how successful it was. • Build professional profiles, use them to amplify content • Confidence vs. Cocky-ness TELL THEM YOU ARE GOING TO DO IT TELL THEM YOU ARE DOING IT TELL THEM WHAT YOU DID
  59. 59. WHAT TO INCLUDE? WHAT SOME BASIC INFO SAYS ABOUT YOU. All professional activities! Service to schools Volunteering- In the discipline Science writing Distillations for public audiences Hosted events, organized speakers
  60. 60. SERVICE TO SCHOOLS BECOMING THE TRUSTED SOURCE THAT ALWAYS BRINGS IT. Science Fairs Science days In-Class demonstrations Better-than-a-substitute Online modules College level- Can you prepare online course content? Let the university know– develop media around the events
  61. 61. GRANTS/FELLOWSHIPS DEVELOP EVIDENCE OF ENGAGEMENT BEFORE THE APPLICATION Don’t wait for a competitive grant/fellowship/scholarship opportunity to propose to do something clever Do it now, then use grants/fellowship/scholarship applications as a way to obtain resources to take it to a new level. Amplification through professional web presence
  62. 62. FUNDING THE OUTREACH WORK Ask state, federal program leaders. Deans, Department Chairs, etc, may be willing to support the outreach work. Oftentimes local businesses will provide some support. You don’t ask, you don’t get. Invest in equipment that has departmental role, but could be important for outreach. Costs are generally low
  63. 63. BUILD WIN-WINS Organize Science Cafés, Science on Tap, Science Keg Most places are happy to host this on an off night Sometimes become enormously popular events Sponsors might donate food/drinks
  64. 64. EXPLOITING NEW MEDIA Major media have lost their science editors Science is more complex and specialized Don’t complain about the media- become the media Get out of your echo chamber. Talk to the public, not just to other scientists
  65. 65. EXPLOITING NEW MEDIA BE AVAILABLE. Universities need go-to people. Get media training Practice for when it happens Never turn down an opportunity, even if it means adjusting your schedule.
  66. 66. EXPLOITING NEW MEDIA Blogging  One blog a week is 52 a year  Free space at blogspot.com, wordpress, others  University blog space YouTube World’s largest search engine People go to video first Record protocols you use Record a synthesis of a journal club discussion Break down a hot news item in your discipline for a public audience
  67. 67. EXPLOITING NEW MEDIA The Internet is Starving for Good Science Media Non-refereed places to post  Medium, etc  Work in these spaces gets noticed, other opportunities arise Non-refereed, but by invitation  Science 2.0  Huffington Post Blogs  Forbes
  68. 68. EXPLOITING NEW MEDIA The Internet is Starving for Good Science Media Refereed  The Conversation  Genetic Literacy Project  Science 2.0  Science Blogs  Science-based medicine  Science GOOD WORK GETS NOTICED
  69. 69. ACADEMIC FREEDUMB? Academic Freedom is the concept that scholars should have the free range to express or critically evaluate a concept as long as it is within their field of expertise. You need to be the expert in specific tribes. What you say will be a permanent part of your record.
  70. 70. THE INTERNETS LAST A LONG TIME Don’t lose your cool Hug your haters Comments sections, Facebook discussions, Twitter threads, are a spectator sport Understand who is watching and listening Google yourself regularly
  71. 71. BALANCE Your activities must enhance the broader impact of your research They must be in addition to, not instead of Make sure your advisor knows your work
  72. 72. DO IT FOR THEM. DO IT FOR YOU. HOW OFTEN DO YOU GET SUCH OPPORTUNITIES? Be a presence in social media, explaining science, participating in discussions! Always offer to answer questions by email, leave a legitimate email address Always use your real name Buy your www.yourname.com. Get your e-real estate, no w.  Twitter  PROFESSIONAL Facebook page  Reddit account  LinkedIn  Research Gate  CROSS PROMOTE YOUR WORK
  73. 73. MY TEN COMMANDMENTS OR MY STRONGLY ADVISABLE RECOMMENDATIONS If it’s stupid, and it works, it’s not stupid Write everyday If you don’t ask, you don’t get Measure twice, cut once It is better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it You are the captain of your own ship Second place is the first loser Don’t sacrifice perfect for better It takes money to make money Crisis and opportunity are intertwined Luck is the residue of proper design and hard work Surround yourself with people that like you and know CPR
  75. 75. Forward Scientists are good at talking to each other. Reach out to new groups, build trust and share expertise. Generate content, amplify work of others Use the conduits for science communication to build your brand.
  76. 76. “Don’t tell me it can’t be done, tell me what needs to be done and help me do it.” kfolta.blogspot.com @kevinfolta kfolta@ufl.edu www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com iTunes, Stitcher, Player FM Thank you. All funding, reimbursement: www.kevinfolta.com/transparency All slides: www.slideshare.net/kevinfolta