How Research-Driven Organizations Become Thought Leaders


The Five-Minute Talk

You’ve just gotten an invitation to give a talk. The audience is one you’ve been dying to reach. You’re getting five minutes toward the end of a day that starts early and has a very busy program.

Your first thought: that’s not enough time.…

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You Are a Chart

What’s the most important thing about how you communicate your research and expertise?

If it’s too early in the morning for such a big question, look at what the Apple data visualization engineer Elijah Meeks — executive director of the Data Visualization Society — says should be the most important thing about a chart, one of the fundamental units of research communication:

The most important thing about a chart is not its aesthetics, the technology used to create it, the kind of data visualization layout or even the data it represents.

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The Yoga Class Test

A church in my neighborhood holds a Saturday morning yoga class that I attend off and on. While the class was settling in, I overheard a discussion among some of the participants about kids and their smartphones — they’re on them all the time, they create bad posture, etc.…

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Can a Paper Change Everything?

How do you know when your research has changed things? And when do you say: “I’ve made enough change — I’ve hit my goal”?

When you’ve changed your field? Or is your ambition a bit larger?

It’s rare, says Tim Harford, to read an economics paper that makes one think: “this changes everything.” But he writes in the Financial Times that he read one over a decade ago: the late environmental economist Martin Weitzman’s review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.…

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What About a Flying Aspidistra?

Should you do an interactive/video/podcast/other piece of shiny content to promote that new important research-driven project?

First: who’s the content be for? Who are your audiences? Are those the same as your strategic audiences? Why not?

Second: does it answer a question those audiences have, in a way they want it answered?…

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Nostalgia for ‘Just Science’

Despite Smil’s reach—some of the world’s most powerful banks and bureaucrats routinely ask for his advice—he has remained intensely private. Other experts tap dance for attention and pursue TED talks. But Smil is a throwback, largely letting his books speak for themselves.

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One Cheer for Sexy Soundbite Scicomm

Ecologist Manu Saunders (who helpfully poked holes in the “insect apocalypse” narrative) now asks: “How damaging is sexy soundbite scicomm?

Wait: first, what is “sexy soundbite scicomm”? As best I can tell from Saunders’ post, it’s comms or reporting that

  1. Hypes Big Data as the master key to all problems;
  2. Lionizes individual researchers; and/or
  3. Promotes single-study findings (like the insect apocalypse or the “we’ve lost 3 billion birds in North America” ones) over what she terms “scientific context.”

Sexy soundbite scicomm, Saunders argues, is toxic — not just for public understanding of what science actually is (not glamorous, not hero-based, not about sudden discoveries); but also for early career researchers who think they have to strive for stardom rather than just do good research.…

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