ASM aims to promote and advance the microbial sciences in a myriad of ways. In addition to promoting scientific education and discoveries, we also hope to engage the public with the diverse world of microbes! Last year, we held our first Agar Art contest, to highlight the often-overlooked beauty of microbial growth. We were amazed at member participation, including both the number and quality of the art works! Every submission required a short explanation in lay language, which helped garner public interest in the beautiful microbial pictures.
We were extremely pleased that this campaign earned a nomination for a Shorty award, an awards ceremony that recognizes the best in social media. Although we didn’t win, we were pleased to be a finalist in the nonprofit category. The nomination alone highlights the utility of social media as a way to communicate science.
Scientific results are important, but can make little impact on the world without scientific communication, an extremely broad field that encompasses scientific lectures, writings, and reports. The increasing reach of social media in the last 10-15 years has also increased scientists’ abilities to share their discoveries via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and blogging. These platforms are extremely useful, and not just for sharing cat videos! Scientists can both share their own research and (more importantly) explain why these findings matter.
Clear communication is the most effective. Whether you aim to share with the general public or with other scientists, the more transparent your statement, the more your audience will understand. Tempting as it may be, overusing technical jargon may alienate your audience. When you are immersed in a topic you may forget which words are general and which are technical, so always pause and think about what you audience might know or not know. This doesn’t mean you must avoid phrases like phagocytosis or aliquot, but consider explaining technical terms when necessary.
In the video below, two members of the ASM Communications staff explain why and how to use social media to report scientific findings, using an example of tweeting a scientific article. Tweeting the title of an interesting journal article can garner more interactions if you remove the jargon. This video will walk you through an exercise to de-wonk an example article.
-- Julie Wolf