Media and Communications Report - December 2017

There have been some wonderful examples of communication over the past few months that highlight some nice tips for taking your research that little bit further.


The power of interactives
The idea of sharing through social media or engaging in a story in different ways is huge for mainstream media organisations and high profile social media influencers. This was clearly shown with the publication of Changes in regional heatwave characteristics as a function of global temperature authored by Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick. As part of the paper, James Goldie developed an interactive map of regions of the world showing how heatwaves would change with each 1°C increase in global temperature.

That map found its way on to numerous news websites and in the space of nine days had more than 100,000 sessions. What makes the result more impressive is that James put the interactive map together over one weekend.

Not all interactives will be able to be constructed at such short notice but the hit rate shows they are worth seriously considering as an option when it comes to sharing research.


Statistics and a vivid phrase
Another nice piece of communication came out of a recent paper by Ryan Holmes and Casimir de Lavergne. The paper Abyssal overturning shaped by seafloor distribution, was on first read very technical but it was able to get some nice coverage for two simple reasons.

One, it had a great statistic, the age of the oldest water in the ocean (around 1500 years). News editors love a wow statistic and it allowed me to mention in a media release that the last time this water saw the sun, barbarians were invading Rome. Secondly, the researchers coined a vivid phrase within the paper for the location of this old water – the shadow zone.

Together these generated headlines and leads around the world and turned what could have been a paper just to be shared through small peer networks into something more.

Another great statistic that lent itself to a headline turned up in a paper by Paul Spence on how persistent strong winds in East Antarctica led to melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet. It gave us winds 6000kms distant and huge Kelvin Waves that travelled at 700km/hr.


And then of course there is the classic media standby for broad coverage, parochialism. If you can localise something then the interest in the selected area can be high. If the location is a major city, even better.

When Sophie Lewis produced a paper that said in the future 50°C days could be possible for Melbourne and Sydney, the two biggest cities with the highest concentration of media cranked into action. That and the round number of 50°C, soon had it spreading overseas, particularly once IFLS got hold of it and posted it on Facebook.


The personal journey of science

An article in The Conversation by Paul Spence and Shayne turned into one of my favourite stories of the year. It was a charming piece of writing that celebrated the 100th birthday of Prof Walter Munk, the inventor of the surf forecast. It combined the personal feel of surfing culture with a hardnosed history of science. I profoundly believe where we find that meeting place between the personal and the scientific, we tend to increase engagement with our science considerably.

What was interesting with this story was not its footprint in mainstream media (only two stories – although one was Time Magazine) but how social media fired up. It was shared 927 times on Facebook, 113 times on Twitter and 77 times on Linked In.


Photo (top left): Jeremy Bishop (Unsplash)

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