How Research-Driven Organizations Become Thought Leaders


Bill Gates & Asking Bigger Questions

The head of a think tank once said to me: “The ability to ask the question that makes a great thought leadership piece is the same ability to ask a great research question. And if you can’t do one, you won’t be able to do the other.”

He was totally wrong, and also right in a smaller sense he didn’t grasp.…

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Anecdotes Often Beat Stories. Beat the Snot Out of Them.

We’re told that anecdotes (brief retellings of incidents) are impoverished forms of communication, and stories (longer narratives with peaks and valleys and telling details and surprising twists and moments of reflection and insight) are the highest form of communication.


In a recent “The Undercover Economist” — economist and journalist Tim Harford’s reported column for the FT designed to answer questions based on the best available research — Harford asks the question “Should we take a few long holidays, or lots of short ones?”

But instead of diving into the research immediately, though, Harford begins with a humble anecdote.…

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The ‘New’ Publication Model

Whenever I’m in an unreasonably cheerful mood, I go onto #scicomm Twitter. Its combination of hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show optimism and black-cloud despair never fails to deflate my balloon:

To be clear: there’s nothing awful about “the new publication model” being advanced here. Lots of contemporary process boxes being ticked, as well as Twitter-as-the-new-truffle-oil school of #scicomm.…

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Redressing the Researcher-Communicator Imbalance

In certain classes of research-driven organizations (e.g., smaller think tanks, some NGOs, university-based research centers), it’s often researchers and research directors who call the communications shots. Their comfort level dictates:

  • The way individual pieces of content look and feel;
  • Where, how and how often the content gets promoted and to whom;
  • Which content is deemed priority for the research vertical and/or organization;
  • The content marketing strategy for the research vertical and/or organization (and whether there is a content strategy or not).
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Why You Can’t Review a Reporter’s Story

Two reasons, says science communicator (and former reporter) Matt Shipman: 1) it’s unfair to the other sources, and 2) the changes you request after your review might make the story “certainly more obfuscatory.”

Let me translate #2 for you: your review and suggestions are going to make the story worse.…

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Is Your Thinking Hydroponic?

The economist Thomas Piketty has a new book (Capital and Ideology) coming out next March in the United States. His last book — 2013’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a broadside against the structural excesses of late capitalism — seemed at the time an unlikely international sensation.…

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