Five tips to improve your science blog

3634843977_8a94105b69_oThese days no scientist is allowed to work in the isolation of their laboratory. They must share their research and communicate their findings, not just in journals, but to the world at large.
The terms ‘dissemination’ and ‘outreach’ are always part of funding bids, so it is hardly surprising that many academics set up blogs to keep us informed about the projects. By blogging, researchers can discuss their science rapidly and informally without the pressure of peer review. Blogs may also increase the readership and citation rate of their primary papers.
But above all, scientific blogs can bridge the gap between academics and non-experts.

At Scientia Scripta we think blogs are brilliant! We understand that dissemination is important for all parties: scientists get to promote their work whilst the public – which funds most science through taxes – gets a chance to learns more about complex and exciting discoveries.
But as the trend in blogging continues to rise, we pause to ask: is it working? Do blogs really engage with a wider audience?
Late last year a group of scientists analysed 100 academic blogs to uncover the impact of outreach efforts.
This paper reveals some good news: blogs are being read. Yet they don’t seem to attract readers outside of the immediate research area. In fact, the key blog audiences are academics and professionals. Mewburn and Thomson comment on the ‘inside’ nature of the academic blogosphere.
So why do the public not read these blogs?
The two authors say that most academics do not have a clear image of their target audience; either they do not target a specific audience or they have not considered how to appeal to the audience they have in mind. The result? Posts of clunky academic prose. No wonder the readership is limited.
We love turning complex science into engaging narrative. So here are our top tips for how to make your blog more effective at reaching people outside the lab:

1. Know your purpose. Do you want to show the public why your science matters? Perhaps you want to influence policy-makers and attract new stakeholders? Or maybe you need to tick the ‘communication’ box on your funding application. Whatever you want to achieve, you are more likely to be successful if you know why you are writing.

2. Know your audience. Knowing your audience allows you to write specifically for them. If you are writing for the public, cut the jargon and explain complex issues in shorter sentences with one idea per sentence. But if you want to catch an investor’s eye, be sure to talk about the impact of your work, not just what you did.

3. Know why the reader cares. This is the classic ‘So what?’ factor. Take each science fact and ask ‘So what?’ If there is not a clear reason for its inclusion, cut it.

4. Know how to stand out. Quirky titles enjoy much more success on Twitter than their boring counterparts. Liven up the text with photographs and pull quotes.

5. Know if it is working. Review your blog regularly to keep track of which posts attract readers. Find out who is engaging with your writing. Is your blog shared by others? Do readers engage by writing comments? If not, get a friend to proof read – perhaps it is too complex.

If this all sounds a bit too much and you’d rather get back to the lab, feel free to get in touch to see how we can help with your communication campaigns.

And please share your blogs with us, here or on Twitter (@ScientiaScripta). We love a good read!

Filed under: science copywriting,science writing,Tips | By Deborah on March 29, 2014 at 11:20 pm

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