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One would think, reasonably, that the publication of an academic article means the culmination of an arduous process in which the researchers devoted enormous dedication, working rigorously to get the most accurate conclusions from the best sources. Furthermore, the institutions that support the researchers invest financial and material resources to produce new knowledge. It is a long road, which seems to end with the article’s publication. Certainly not, publishing an article is the beginning of another process as important as its production: dissemination and communication of these findings to society.
The digital age has notably altered the mechanisms for disseminating academic content, offering multiple alternatives, new supports, and innovative discursive forms that target new audiences, but at the same time, undeniably complicating everything to the point that it can be paralyzing.
It is not a linear, organized or systematic process at all. There are many ways to divulge in the digital age. However, I will try to establish some parameters that help to… start! Yes, to take the first steps in the process, in a way that the researcher can then choose between different paths and take it as far as he considers necessary, or until he perceives the results of the effort. It will be a learning path for me as well, and by writing about this, I will be able to systematize all the possibilities that exist which are not enough discussed.
Setting a Communication Strategy
You don’t have to overthink it, but you do have to think about it. Who is your audience? Who do you want to know about the article you just published? Now think about your article, is this a research findings article? A theoretical article? A state of the art? Maybe you want your colleagues to learn about your results or get updated on the latest trends in a specific area.
Maybe you want your article to be read by policymakers unfamiliar with the topic, so, definitely, there are some considerations you should take into account.
There are three elements in the communication process for a scientific article:
- The article
- The audience
- The author
These elements are immersed into a mediatic ecosystem through which circulates the most varied communication resources, traditional and new ones. At the moment I will focus on the Digital Media ecosystem.
To select which resources best suit your work, you have to define the elements in the process:
Different types of articles will demand different strategies. First, consider the genre: is it state of the art? is it a report of your findings after field research? is it a theoretical article? Each case will ask for different resources. A state of the art or review articles are of great value for colleagues working in the same field; this is a very particular product that focuses on updates in theories, methodologies, approaches, etc. In this case, schematic presentations can help to communicate your work. Tools like posters and infographics could help a lot. A field research report needs a more journalistic approach as you are delivering facts. Working with photographs, videos, and recordings of your experience could drive attention to your project. Authors could find a great ally in audiovisual discourses for theoretical articles since images are very powerful for communicating abstract ideas.
Depending on the type of audience you want to reach, your strategy could be broadcast, narrowcast, or mixed. If you would like to aim at an audience working in the same research field, a newsletter directly delivered to your colleagues and specialists in your area could do the work. But let`s say that you want to disseminate the results of a research project in social sciences that could help to establish new policies regarding genre equality, in this case, you should broader your scope and send your newsletter to journalists and the press. These are narrowcast strategies because they are directed to specific audiences. Another scenario would be to aim at a broader audience. Consider a research project about drug abuse or addiction to electronic devices, in these cases, you could rely on audiovisual resources, like podcasts, video abstracts, or posting on social media to take advantage of the appeal that this type of resources has to all audiences. With this strategy, you could reach the press, policymakers, and a general audience at once.
You, as the author, and the institutions that participate in the project are part of the article. The institution you work in has a solid network to rely on to spread the article. You have to follow a strategy you feel comfortable with and aligned with your institution´s goals, but at the same time, do not be afraid to push your boundaries. In the digital era, new resources appear every day. I am not asking you to do a Tik Tok dance video, but yes, you could consider Tik Tok as a resource, it all depends on your target audience and the characteristics of your article. Consider you will have to adapt your language to reach new audiences, it is not about lowering your discourse, but yes, you have to simplify and synthesize the content.
Develop your digital identity, this is very important, digital journals ask for a DOI code for your article, and you may have an ORCID identification as well. Create your profile on academic media platforms such as Academia, Research Gate, Kudos, and in general social media such as Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook. That makes it easier to access your articles and all the information about your filed of work and even to get in touch with you.
Ask for help, there is always a student or a junior colleague who masters digital communication skills and could guide you. Furthermore, your institution must have a public relations team, which manages communication and outreach.
Let me recap these ideas in a diagram so you can see the big picture:
Finally, use systemic thinking rather than linear thinking for these processes, it doesn`t matter where you start but that you get into the process and gradually cover all the aspects of it. Last but not least, follow up on the results of your strategy and adjust it, and enjoy getting in touch with new people and sharing knowledge.
Steven J. Cooke, Austin J. Gallagher, Natalie M. Sopinka, Vivian M. Nguyen, Rachel A. Skubel, Neil Hammerschlag, Sarah Boon, Nathan Young, and Andy J. Danylchuk. Considerations for effective science communication. FACETS. 2(): 233-248. https://doi.org/10.1139/facets-2016-0055
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