How to Enhance Communication and Make Your Research More Accessible
By Kadie Britt
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series contributed by the ESA Student Affairs Committee. See other posts by and for entomology students here at Entomology Today.
Communicating our research and work in an effective and universally-digestible manner is an extremely important aspect of entomology—and all fields of science. Making a positive impact on the greater environment is at the heart of why we do the work we do, so our work should be readily shared with non-scientist members of the public in a way that is easily understood.
A prime example of an outlet needing quick, effective communication is my current research focus: insect pest management in hemp. Hemp is a “new” crop to modern agriculture and has rapidly grown in the past five years, with the number of people cultivating the crop increasing exponentially from one year to the next. However, due to prohibition for the large part of the last century, there exists little scientific information about hemp growth and cultivation practices, production, and pest management. Conducting replicated studies takes time and, thus, answers are not immediately available to growers as they are needed. Therefore, when we get research results that can affect growers in real time, we need to sum up this information and disseminate the results in a quick and effective manner.
Scientific papers are typically full of jargon that is only truly meaningful to those within a particular field of science. This is appropriate for peer-reviewed papers but becomes somewhat exclusionary to the general public. Writing a short blog post to sum up research findings is a good way to share research results without all of the intimidating terminology. Additionally, if the research is not published in an open access journal, readers could be blocked by a paywall. Blogs are a way to bypass the paywall requirement and rapidly share important information with those who need it most. An example of a lab experiment that was shared with growers to provide some late-season relief from a major hemp pest can be found here. Communicating this research instantly was imperative for aiding grower success.
In addition to blogs, infographics are an excellent way to convey findings in a digestible format. Infographics are fun, informative displays of complex information that can be shared and interpreted in a quick and clear manner. These are a great way to communicate the results of scientific studies to any audience. Consider developing an infographic of your research and posting it to your website as a way to make your work more accessible to a broader audience. Learn more about infographics here.
Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook can be effective modes of communication. These outlets provide readily accessible scientific content in the form of a quick and easy post. This provides greater visibility to entomology and the greater scientific community. I have a personal Twitter account where I can share photos from the field or just other bits of information about hemp and insects that could be helpful to others. My lab also has a Facebook page where we share general information about work that we are doing.
Corn earworm and bud rot symptoms. Seeing this quite a bit in CBD hemp at this point in the season. pic.twitter.com/3XnRqvVLgY
— Kadie Britt (@kadiehempvt) September 11, 2019
Communicating our research to the public will always be an important aspect of our work as entomologists. It is essential that we share the results of our work to a broad audience in an effective manner. By using the tools above to quickly and effectively communicate our research, we can ensure that it is available and accessible to those who need it most.
Kadie Britt is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech and is the Plant-Insect Ecosystems Representative to the ESA Student Affairs Committee. Twitter: @kadiehempvt. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.