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Scientific research transforms our understanding of the world and drives progress. However, for research to have a meaningful impact it needs to be communicated to a wider audience. This is what scientific dissemination is all about, communicating scientific ideas effectively.
Scientific dissemination is present in every part of life. Every media carries stories related to scientific or medical progress, be it on the news, on or in feature style stories. Without dissemination, scientific communities would never communicate, projects would not get funding, and the public would rarely support scientific studies.
Knowledge and information should be prevalent and compelling for any audience if that information is to be useful.
What is scientific dissemination?
Scientific dissemination means effectively communicating scientific knowledge, research findings, and discoveries to a range of audiences in a clear, accessible, and meaningful way. In other words, it is the process of distributing technical information to wider audiences, including to the general public.
This approach is used to share information, generally as a one way system, meaning the source of the message won’t receive a direct response back.
It involves simplifying complex scientific concepts into a language and formats that non-experts can understand. Scientific dissemination aims to promote public understanding of science, enhance scientific literacy, and encourage informed decision-making. Without this, scientific progress and government support may be compromised
Only by fostering a two-way mode of communication, can those spreading their message achieve greater engagement. When experts disseminate results from their scientific or medical study, this information becomes available to expanded demographic and can be picked up by different sources, like news media, to further use the source of the scientific advances.
What is the process of scientific dissemination?
First, it is essential to establish a message that you will be distributing. Typically, this message is your key discoveries based on the study data and any relevant advances in knowledge. It is often something that you uncovered which the community of research did not know before.
While it is easy for a scientific expert to understand vast amounts of specialised information, the reality is, it’s not the case for scientists outside the discipline of the expert, let alone for the general public.
Look at scholarly publisher, EDP Sciences, which had published a ‘Surgical guidance in the time of Covid-19’ aimed to give surgeon a proctology to prevent Covid-19 infections. This information is so complex and lengthy that it would take too long to read carefully to effectively communicate. That’s why it’s important to polish your message to its fundamental meaning.
There are several key steps, after identifying what research findings or knowledge needs to be disseminated. Researchers assess the right target audiences and formulate the most appropriate dissemination strategies to reach them. That’s the price to pay if you want to find the perfect message.
This could include scientific publications, conferences, public lectures, social media platforms, podcasts, videos, or websites.
Finally, evaluation and feedback mechanisms are established to monitor the impact and effectiveness of the dissemination strategies, and adapt for later iterations.
Determining the target audience
The most important criterion is to determine the target audience. Is it anyone and everyone who wander onto your website? Or is it a group subject matter experts? Is it patients or consumers? Or do you want to communicate with policy makers? Each audience understands your information in a different manner. It is essential that you adjust the way information is formulated based on the level of understanding the audience may have of your topic.
There are a wide variety of dissemination activities to choose from. The process depends on your audience’s availability.
This can take place at certain times of the day, as busy professionals only consume content in slots of five to fifteen minutes.
Sometimes, there are topics that are more attractive at certain times of the year, as they coincide with a large event.
For example, dissemination can take the form of key lessons from academic experts, such as those collaborating with Wiley Science Solutions. The idea was to deliver audience-friendly information to be distributed immediately after the webinar series as a means to attract a wider audience.
This, in turn, increases the impact of the messages delivered during the webinar. Information distribution should always be planned ahead of time, to ensure smooth delivery.
Distribution of content
When it comes to distribution, the amount of digital platforms available for communication is plentiful.
Different forms of content can be distributed to different platforms: online news outlets, social media, and private websites.
It is essential to consider the audience needs when selecting the intervals at which to disperse the information and when selecting a platform from which to share the content.
A press release is a suitable format to contact news rooms directly— but they are not always guaranteed to be picked up.
Instagram lends itself to sharing visual content, while LinkedIn is a professional community which is perfect for spreading professional insights.
Meanwhile, infographics are suited to be distribution via websites and post conference email communication.
Disseminating scientific study data and results effectively is not easy. It calls upon professional skills of communicators who have the ability to accurately convey the core message from the original study or the technical source document.
Overall what will make it successful is the ability of creative professionals to deliver compelling content.
Types of dissemination strategies
Traditional dissemination strategies include publishing research articles in peer-reviewed journals, presenting findings at conferences, and collaborating with other researchers within the scientific community.
These strategies focus on reaching a specialised audience. Modern, digital strategies can help to expand the reach and impact of dissemination, such as leveraging social media platforms, creating interactive content, engaging with online communities, and partnering with content providers.
A combination of strategies helps scientific communicators reach their target audiences repeatedly over a variety of mediums, and to so cost-effectively.
A scientific dissemination example
As an example, let’s look at a team of researchers conducting a study on the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems.
After completing their research, they aim to disseminate their findings to raise awareness among policymakers, environmental organisations, and the general public.
First, they create a scientific dissemination plan, outlining their objectives, target audience, key messages, and channels.
They decide to publish their research findings in a peer-reviewed journal to reach the scientific community, leaders within environmental organisations, and for this to become source material for policymakers.
Additionally, they commission a communications agency to produce a series of digital assets — infographics, blogs, and short videos —summarising their study so they can share this on their website and social media channels, making their research accessible to the public.
They also organise a public lecture at a university with a related degree course, inviting students, faculty, and other interested members such as the public and government agencies.
This public lecture facilitates direct engagement and provides an opportunity to address questions and receive feedback from key stakeholders.
Why should you disseminate scientific research?
Disseminating scientific research is crucial for several reasons:
Firstly, it enhances transparency and accountability by sharing research findings with the wider scientific community, promoting collaboration and feedback.
Secondly, scientific dissemination helps to bring together researchers and the public, promoting scientific literacy and evidence-based decision-making. Effectively communicating scientific research results in a better informed public who can then make more informed choices. It ‘opens the doors’ to the public and invites them to be partners in the process of progressing scientific knowledge, instead of leaving them behind which can fuel resentment and suspicion.
Finally, scientific dissemination allows people to see how scientific research impacts society. The more evident this is to the public, the more likely they will be to support the funding and policies that make research advances possible.
So when is the best time to circulate these scientific results? Any time is the simple answer. But in reality, you should conduct scientific dissemination campaigns as often as resources allow. The more exposure your organisation receives, the greater your future research endeavours will prosper.