A list of what you thought it was worth to click on the link
It is that time of the year when we look back to find the most important past events and gain some insight from them. This list has the links that my Twitter audiences found most interesting from March 2013 to December 2013.
Year 2013 on Twitter
About the list: I have shared over a thousand links on Twitter, a lot of them never get opened, but some of the links get big responses just because they are re-tweeted by users with audiences in the tens of thousands, or because they are well tuned to the interests of the people who follows me on Twitter. I used BitLy to find the 10 most popular links of 2013, here you have the list starting with number ten and ending with number 1, the most opened link of 2013!
#10 Vote for University of Washington’s Engage Science Seminar Series!
Sometimes when you ask people to help you advertise a cause, they help you a lot. Engage Science is a student-run seminar that helps young scientists improve their communication skills. Engage was participating in the NSF Graduate Education Challenge and needed votes to have their proposal funded. Thank for the re-tweets and for the people who clicked the link to find how to vote for Engage (Total of 19 clicks).
Not a lot of people knows that EPA has a very active social media feed in Spanish, one of their profiles of EPA employees that I shared made it to the top ten more clicked links: Evelyn Rivera-Ocasio, a compliance inspector in charge of wastewater treatment plants in Puerto Rico (Total of 19 clicks).
Perú tripled its investment in science and innovation this year, and CONCYTEC started an aggressive campaign to promote science education and research in the country. This is a link to a LatinAmericanScience.org English translation of a short post I wrote in Spanish for my SalsaDeCiencia blog (Total of 19 clicks)
Peru’s national council of science, technology, and technological innovation (CONCYTEC) announced this week a plan to stimulate scientifi…
#7 Developing a National roadmap for communication training in STEM graduate programs
Meetings happen behind closed doors in Washington DC everyday, but some of them encourage participants to share their content on twitter. #GradSciComm participants were so generous with their sharing that I was able to write a ScienceSalsa.com blog post about the meeting without attending it. (Total of 20 clicks)
There are times when reform is necessary. The very successful STEM graduate education programs in USA are now graduating a lot more PhDs,…Ivan Fernando Gonzalez
#6 Diverse Science Writers
Blogger and scientist DNLee (@DNLee5) started a Twitter list of Diverse Science Writers, she crowd-sourced the names online, and a lot of people was interested on the list. Thank you for including me on it! (Total of 21 clicks).
If you are interested in Spanish-speaking audiences please check the following link for the event’s recap and video. It had a total of 119 clicks, but those didn’t come from my Twitter links, so it didn’t make it on this list.
“Ciencia para todos” showcases ongoing efforts to reach the massive Spanish-speaking audiences in the USA (and Globally). As part of this effort, I started a public opt-in list that may help science communicators match local Spanish-speaking communicators and a growing public Twitter list with more than 150 resources worldwide in Spanish. (Total of 131 clicks).
Additionally a total of 74 people click on the Twitter link for the form to opt-in on the list (and only half actually subscribed) and 65 people have consulted the Twitter link for the list already
Ciencia para todos El proyecto Ciencia Para Todos es en principio muy simple: busca ayudar a que los esfuerzos de la comunicación de la ciencia -que existen…
In the age of PowerPoint it is hard to remember that you are the presentation, not your slides. This invited blog post talks about my struggles as a scientist to give engaging presentations, and the lessons I learned during the Engage Science Seminar at University of Washington. Effective science communication training in academia is possible, Engage even includes a talk in front of Town Hall Seattle, a great public venue, but programs like it are still diamonds because they are difficult to find in the current graduate education landscape (Total of 148 clicks).
I want to thank you for sharing those links and for reading them. The year 2013 doubled the number of people following my accounts on Twitter (@gonzalezivanf in English and @salsadeciencia in Spanish) and I like to believe it is because you found the content pleasant and useful. It has been a little over a year since I started learning how to become an effective science communicator, thank you for coming along with me and helping me grow, thank you for your patience and your support.
Have a wonderful 2014 and I hope to keep enjoying the privilege of your company on Twitter!
BitLy is a service that offers URL redirection with real-time link tracking. I have used BitLy on Twitter since March of 2013, and to this date it has helped me track the usage of over 1,000 links. I made this list of My Ten Most Popular Twitter Links of 2013 based on their statistics, selecting the links with the largest number of clicks. To visit my BitLy account please follow this link:
But can you really know your online audience? Especially one that does not speak your own language? Writing content for an online audience requires some guesswork and a lot of hope; you guess what your audience may want to read, you write it for them, and you hope that what you wrote will engage them. The truth is that, apart from online comments and some statistics about clicks on your links, there is not a lot of feedback available about your online readers. When the audience you need to reach has a different culture or language than your own, this guesswork may become a little too difficult to do from the chair in front of your computer.
Thankfully we don’t exist in a total vacuum, and we can build partnerships with trusted institutions and members of the audience that we want to reach. For Spanish-speaking audiences in the USA those partnerships are readily available: bilingual, trusted, sources at the federal, state, and local level are always hungry for more and better content for Hispanics.
Make no mistake, Spanish-speaking audiences need to be engaged in the discussions about science, medicine and technology in America. It is not only about inclusion and social justice, but about the massive force of demographics. Hispanic Americans are a fast growing community. They make up 17% of the population, and are projected to be 31% of the population by 2060. USA is the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country by population, and Spanish-dominant and bilingual Hispanics accounted for more than 54% of the 32 million Hispanics online in 2010. To leave behind the first-generation of Spanish speakers is not even an option; Americans raised fully bilingual require the constant partnership and support of their Spanish-speaking parents to succeed in STEM.
What we learned at the Science Online Seattle event
Enhancing science learning with concepts relevant to local context and to Hispanic culture:
Mónica Feliú-Mójer of Ciencia Puerto Rico (CienciaPR) told us about the non-profit grassroots organization composed by people with an interest in science and Puerto Rico. Their website is the headquarters for most initiatives, but CienciaPR is more than a website, it is a global community, and a big one: it connects 188 academic institutions, 6,500 members, and 100 scientific disciplines.
Feliú-Mójer reminded us that science learning is enhanced when concepts are made relevant to your context and to your culture. In many Spanish-speaking communities concepts are seldom illustrated in a culturally relevant fashion, and that sends the wrong message to the public and to students. It sends the message that science is not relevant for them or that they can’t become a scientist. Scientists and communicators can help changing this perception by communicating science to the public in a culturally relevant fashion. CienciaPR successfully enlisted scientists from their online community and communicators to create this kind of content (more than 384 articles so far). The effort became a book and now is used in Puerto Rican schools as a textbook, making an impact in K-12 science education.
Science communication is not only about language and what you say, but also about who says it. If you see somebody that speaks your language, shares your background, and looks like you, that communicates that science is relevant to you, and you can reach what that person is. For that reason another successful initiative of CienciaPR has been adding profiles of Hispanic scientists -and personal blogs- and organizing school visits to help change the perception of what a scientist should look or sound like.
If you are engaging the Hispanic community, make sure you include a way they can ask questions and get more information
Adrianna Gutierrez described the Cancer Information Service (CIS) as the link between the scientific health information of the National Cancer Institute and the community. “We help them answer any questions they may have about cancer and make it in a way that is understandable for them”. She emphasizes that when you are bringing information to Spanish-speaking populations you should also give a way for the community to ask questions and get more information.
The CIS effort relies heavily on the Internet. Not only have one half of the people who contact them found about this service via Internet, but people are using the Internet to contact them with questions: roughly one third of contacts were through email (as many contacts as with their phone calls), and one fifth of contacts were through their Spanish-language Mobile app. They also have a Facebook page, YouTube videos, and a twitter account but not a lot of people use those to ask questions.
What are Hispanics asking about? CIS users are usually contacting them with general questions about symptoms and diagnosis, looking for doctors, and treatment. She also noticed the low percentage of Spanish-speaking requests for more information on cancer clinical trials (only 7.2% of conversations touch that subject). Latinos(*) are vastly underrepresented in cancer research and clinical trials and hopefully, by providing this information and engaging the community, the willingness and interest in participating on clinical trials will increase, providing drugs tested to work on groups that are representative of the general population.
Assess the community you are working with to provide multiple methods for accessing information
Sarah Doty, of Sea Mar, believes the health literacy level of Latinos is an important factor to consider when thinking about what information and resources to put out in the community: an estimated 66% of Latinos have basic or bellow-basic health literacy skills, compared with the overall national number of 36%. Latinos are a very diverse community, not one size-fits-all, not only in literacy levels but also culturally. Assuming Spanish-proficiency is also risky; some of them may have Spanish as a second language and indigenous languages as their native tongue. The level of interest is also highly variable, and you should ask yourself continuously how much information somebody wants.
Having multiple levels of interest and health literacy means that high literacy and high interest users get more in-depth information, low-interest users give less in-depth information and Spanish-as-a-second-language users receive media that provides more visual clues. Doty suggested people interested in bringing health or science stories to Latinos to provide both high-level information and formats accessible for public with low literacy levels (with clear visual information).
A a big number of Latino patients at Sea Mar have cell phones with Internet access but they may not have a computer at home. Doty is using digital storytelling and social media as tools to improve engagement and health literacy in the Latino population. A digital story is basically somebody’s personal story, an audio recording with added photos and some music, a tool to educate about health issues but also for personal empowerment. Sea Mar has a Facebook page and radio station. Radio is a great tool to reach Latino population and it is a community-trusted method to get information. In addition to those, Sea Mar refers web-savvy patients to educational videos on YouTube to webMD, FamilyDoctor, Myplate (mi plato) and a smoke-cessation website from the Legacy foundation.
Leveraging mobile Internet to reach new immigrants
Ivan Orbegozo, of Latin Nexus Group, came to Seattle 13 years ago speaking almost no-English. Orbegozo talked during our event about his struggles as an Spanish-speaking newcomer, and how finding resources like the Seattle Public library allowed him to learn English and to find a job communicating technology in Spanish. Now he is building the service he dreamed of when he first came to the USA: a centralized list of local resources for Spanish-speaking people using mobile devices. The choice of platform has to do with cell phones helping to reduce the digital divide between Latinos and whites, and the service is implemented in HTML5 to avoid both Hispanic users reluctance to install applications and the segmentation inherent in selecting a specific phone platform for the application.
There is no such a thing as a monolithic audience
To provide context and culturally relevant concepts to Hispanics with roots in the Caribbean and to Hispanics in New Mexico may need sometimes a complete rewrite of your text. Hispanics are a group united by Spanish language and a common history, but not only the language and scientific literacy levels are variable across the community. The same language is not use it the same way in different cultures, and that reflects in the choice of words needed to convey your meaning. There is no easy out-of-the-box way to communicate with Spanish-speaking audiences, but a myriad of possible partnerships with trusted sources for the Hispanic community to create effective and delightful science communication content in Spanish.
What can you do to create content that engages Hispanic Americans?
Sarah Doty firmly believes that it is important for science communicators to grow with the rapidly growing Latino population in a way that involves the Latino community. I completely agree. Hispanics are not invisible, they are not hiding from you, but they are under the radar for a lot of people in the science communication community. It takes a tuned ear and constant interest to hear the voices that learned first how to speak Spanish, and today are intermingled in our daily lives. Now that you may have caught a glimpse, what can you do to create content that engages Hispanic Americans?
Connect with people of the community, look for individuals that are already trusted by the community, and know what the community needs. User that connection as your platform.
You may contact the panelists (see form at the bottom) or contact me.
The CienciaPR database is a good point to start looking for partnerships, they have a great membership map with people all over the country. You don’t need to be born in Puerto Rico to be a member, you only need to have an interest in science and Puerto Rico.
You may also check an opt-in list of Spanish-speaking science communicators I am hosting called “Ciencia Para Todos” with about a dozen of communicators in USA, another dozen in Spain, and a dozen in Latin-America.
For more about the discussion during our event, including parts that are not included on the live-streamed video, please check the Storify of the event:
(*) Hispanic and Latino are used very often interchangeably, but I use Hispanic to convey a population with Spanish as main language and cultural tradition, while Latino means to me people with roots in Latin-America. Hispanic includes people born in Spain, but excludes Brazilians because they speak Portuguese, Latino excludes Spanish but includes Brazilians.
Special thanks to Jen Davison and Liz Neeley for their guidance and help putting the event together, to Sally James for her invaluable help searching for awesome panelists, to Brian Glanz for planting the idea of this event, to Jessica Rhode for filming it, and to Peter Wallis, Adam Kennedy, and Rachael Ludwick for their support.
This week two newspapers featured school seminars that help graduate students communicate their science to general audiences. The Seattle Times featured Engage Science from University of Washington and the Long Island Newsday featured the Center for Communicating Science of Stony Brook University*. Those programs recognize a need for “communication literacy” on scientific education and represent an awesome professional (and personal) development tool for the students that take the seminars. I firmly believe scientists that like to talk about their research should be able to find a similar seminar or class elsewhere. There is a need for it, and there is a growing group of students acquiring communication training to pursue “non-traditional” science careers (now the majority of job opportunities) where the ability to communicate concisely and in plain English is very valuable.
“The goal of the [Engage Science] course, founded by graduate students, is to teach young scientists how to share their passions for cosmology, chemistry or evolutionary biology without putting people to sleep. The program is one of several springing up across the country, fueled by a new generation of researchers who see public outreach as integral to their jobs.” — Seattle Times
Those scientists will fulfill a key role by showing a more human scientist to the public, somebody non-scientist can understand and relate to. The need is there for those scientists who can communicate science effectively; experts need to bring the scientific consensus in Global Warming to a broader audience and they need to expose the hidden dangers of widespread use of antibiotics. Scientific literacy is not a luxury when those subjects can have such a big impact on people’s lives.
The other role for this bunch of scientists trained on presentation design, jargon removal and storytelling will be inside their research institutions. They will raise the bar for scientific presentations for scientific audiences.
“Though we typically perceive scientists in white lab coats conducting experiments, a critical part of their work involves giving lectures and making presentations.” Long Island Newsday
I spent so many years attending boring scientific talks that I forgot how to tell a story, and I forgot that the presentation is a lot more than the graphs or the slides. We need scientists trained in communication inside and outside academia. Luckily I got help from Engage Science at UW, and I think I am starting to get better at telling stories. I hope you agree. You can read my take on the lessons learned during the Engage seminar at “Bringing science back, one story at a time” and the invited post “Scientists are human too”
(*) The article is behind a pay-wall but excerpts of the text are available at the Center for Communicating Science Facebook page.
There is a gap growing between the scientific community and the general public. The public can’t keep-up with what is happening in science daily, and often don’t even care. Overworked scientists rarely find extra time to communicate their science to audiences outside academia, and just publishing the science in journals doesn’t seem to bridge the gap fast enough.
Thankfully there is a growing army of science communicators determined to bring science back to the public, engaging in a useful dialog about science. The most powerful weapons of this small army are the scientists themselves. Contrary to public perception, scientists are a passionate, interesting bunch of people. They love what they do. That passion helps them overcome the difficulties, setbacks, and struggles that come with exploring the limits of human knowledge. Their ingenuity navigating the unknown is the raw material for captivating storytelling, but they rarely learn in school how to tell their story to the public. Engage is an organization of graduate students of the University of Washington that helps to reveal those stories. Engage organizes a seminar to train student scientists on presenting their research to a general audience, stripping jargon and scientific formality. I had the privilege of attending the Engage seminar series for graduate students this quarter and I am really happy I did. The seminar provides a wonderful review of the craft of storytelling, teaching how to speak with your voice and body; presentation content and design; and the “what” and the “how” of effective communication. For me, the take home message is that the respect you owe to the audience means that you must relentlessly simplify the content without dumbing it down. Hopefully, if you use the right tools to tell a compelling, engaging story, the public understands your science better and relates to the person doing the science too. I believe that is a great way to bridge the gap.
The best part of Engage: there is a science treat for the Seattle public too. This seminar is a preparation for the Engage science speaker series, this year happening at Town Hall from March to June. Attending this class I had the chance to learn about the amazing research of twenty graduate students at UW (you can learn more about them here). After more than two decades in academia, I can say that what I have heard from the students is all-fresh, super-engaging science storytelling. To give you a small sample, I learned how coral reduces the destructive power of Tsunamis in a video game analogy, why we may be loving killer whales to dead, and I saw evolution happening in front of my eyes. There is much more coming to Town Hall, starting on March 5th, please check this calendar and make sure to go to the UW Science Now presentations. You will be glad you did.
PS: Special thanks to Jessica Rohde and Ty Robinson, co-instructors of the seminar for allowing me to attend this amazing class, and to the graduate students for tolerating my presence.
What is the value of live-tweeting scientific talks?
Live-tweeting engages multiple voices, widens audiences, and builds communities. Every person in the audience has a unique perspective. Reading a stream of tweets from a talk is more than reading a timeline; a live-twitter stream carries multiple perspectives, each one accentuating the parts of the talk that affected each person. People outside the auditorium will track the hashtag associated with the talk and become part of the audience themselves. It is not uncommon to start dialogs or to share relevant links using the same hashtag. Pretty soon you find yourself in a community of people with similar interest exchanging information on Twitter.
How do you start live-tweeting?
First check if the talk is open to the public. If it is not open to the public, ask the organizers and the speaker about their policies for live-tweeting. The key for starting live-tweeting is to find the right hashtag. Some speakers may have a hashtag for you to use, making the first step of live-tweeting very easy. But very often you need to come up with the right hashtag. Try to make it short, clear, and unambiguous. Try searching for keywords related to the talk and see if other people is live-tweeting with you. In Kobilka’s talk I started using #ChemNobel2012 but soon realized that @MillerLab was using #KobilkaSeminar. I started using both hashtags to merge the Twitter streams and then felt very relaxed knowing that other person was there to help cover the content-heavy talk.
Even if the organizers give you a hashtag you should follow the stream to check if there is no interference with other Twitter conversations. For example, the Northwest Fisheries Science Center “Monster Seminar JAM” was happening the same day as the #MonsterJam concert in Boston, so I switched hashtag mid-talk. Don’t be afraid to switch hashtags during the talk, but communicate this change as clearly as possible to the Twitter audience.
Live-tweeting is simple: set the stage and introduce the subject and the hashtag with the first tweet. Add the Twitter handlers of the speaker and organizers if they have one. Pay attention to the talk, check the Twitter stream periodically. Use quotation marks if you are quoting directly, and make sure to let people know when the talk is over.
Why is important to collect the tweets afterwards?
We live in an era of short attention span, it is hard to get pass the headline and to get complex knowledge. We give the first engagement in Tweeter a place for growth by building a timeline or topic list with more information to click. The fast-moving Twitter feed is replaced by a place where you can take your time, gain perspective, and review contrasting opinions. Make sure you add context and explanations, and links for the original data and figures, if possible.