Introduction to Communications and Media
These resources have been developed to assist academic and research staff in the School of Informatics with communicating their research to audiences who lack expertise in the field. Colleagues outside of the School and colleagues who work in various other roles will find them beneficial too and are free to use them. Colleagues outside of the University of Edinburgh should ask for permission before using them (contact details can be found at the bottom of this page).
Communicating science is part of being a scientist. Journal and conference papers are researchers' bread and butter. But sometimes academics are asked to communicate their science to audiences that lack expertise in the field. If their research impacts patients or technology users, is of interest to policymakers or maybe it changes the direction of research in their particular area, it might be worth widening the audience we are communicating these findings to.
'Science communication' (as opposed to scientific communication) is what speaking about your research to a non-specialist audience is commonly called.
Resources on this page introduce you to the basics of communication theories, science communications and media. These resources are not meant to equip you with bulletproof media skills, they're meant to give you a head start on your way to becoming a science communicator. You are not on your own when communicating your research to a non-specialist audience - there are colleagues at the University whose job it is to help you. In the School of Informatics, the Communications Team are there to support your science communication needs.
Whether you have any experience trying to explain your research to audiences outside of the University or can't decide whether it's worth doing, these resources should be helpful to you. The materials present basic concepts in communications and media studies, and general advice on how to communicate with various audiences and through different channels, including social media. Some of the University of Edinburgh initiatives that may be of use to you are highlighted.
The resources include three videos, a booklet and quizzes. There is no right or wrong way of using the materials - find the way that suits you best.
If you prefer to watch and listen give these three videos a try. Each is six minutes long and they serve as an overview of the main topics: science communications basics, working with journalists and science communications DIY.
If you prefer to read, but also would like a bit more insight into the three topics summarised in the videos please download the Introduction to Science Communications and Media booklet. It expands on the content of the videos and adds more depth. If you'd prefer the booklet in a different format, please contact Kasia Kokowska (below).
If you'd like to test how much you have learnt, please complete the quiz using the link below. It consists of 13 choice/multiple choice/true or false questions and four tasks which you can either complete in your own time or ask Informatics Comms Team for feedback (we will only be able to provide feedback to Informatics staff and students).
If you're in Informatics - this is what I'd like you to do next
I hope you found the materials helpful and will find it easier to communicate your research to non-scientific audiences.
If you're a student or a member of staff in the School of Informatics, there are a number of things you should do now:
- Respond to calls for stories - InfComms send them monthly. There are three types of stories we are looking for: research stories, students' stories and public engagement activities. Keep an eye out for our emails and send us your pitches!
- Contact us when you want to share a story outside of these calls. We have web forms that will make it easier for you
- Would you like to become a recognised expert? Start by adding your name to our Directory of Experts, we will be in touch with you if a query needing an expert in your field. We will also get in touch for any potential internal stories and social media content promoting you as an expert.
- If you're a social media person - make sure you follow us on our social media channels
- Read the School newsletter - we send it around ~ the 25th of each month straight into your inbox
- Check news items on our website
- If you're after any comms-related advice (including good practice, local channels, advice on media relations, and press releases) please email InfComms
Useful apps and software
As a supplement to the information provided in the videos and the booklet, see below for a useful list of software and apps that you can use to support your digital science content.
Canva - an intuitive design app, free and pro, web and app versions available
Adobe Express -similar to Canva, part of Adobe Creative Cloud suite, free access for the University of Edinburgh students and staff
Lottie files allow you to create lightweight animations for your social media
Animaker allows you to create animated videos
GIMP - open source, cross-platform graphic design programme/photo editor
Inkscape - graphic design/drawing tool
Pixlr - photo editor/animation and design in one
Photopea - advanced photo editor
Sumopaint - drawing and painting app
UnDraw - open-source illustrator
Diagrams - flowchart maker
Infograpify - offers some infographics templates for free
Unsplash - free images
Audacity - audio editing programme
Anchor by Spotify - free podcasting platform
Vidyard - a Chrome browser extension video tool
Storyboardthat - to help with your digital storytelling
Hootsuite - social media scheduling tool
TweetDeck - Twitter content scheduling tool
Linktree - allows you to customise your bio links on social media
Linkbio - likewise, but the links will appear as tiles
Grammarly - advanced spell-checker
Hemingway Editor - helps you write in plain English
As an added bonus here's a guide on how to get your hands on an audiovisual kit:
The following colleagues offered advice, shared knowledge and feedback on the developed materials:
Rhona Crawford - PR and Media Manager at the University Press Office; Peter Bell – Impact Coordinator at the School of Informatics; Anne Sofie Laegran - Head of Knowledge Exchange and Impact at the Edinburgh Research Office; Lisa Backwell - Research Impact Intern at the CMVM Research Office; Sonia Mullineaux - Head of Alumni Communications shared her extensive knowledge and experience in producing podcasts. Additional thanks to the University podcasters: Emma Aviet and Dr Murray Collins; Placement students from the MSc in Science Communications and Public Engagement programme - Jason Segall, Krishna Sharma, Sadikchya Singh and Rui Ge; Informatics Science Communications Group - Ricky Zhu, Steph Droop, Ella Davyson, SriPriya G, Adarsh Doddappagouda Patil; Informatics Communications Team - Nicola Hopper and Stuart McKerlie; Kenny Bell, CSE comms colleagues: Nikki Kay and Tom Mortimer, Deepthi de Silva-Williams - Head of Brand (for advice on how to make an impact with this training), Dr Elizabeth Stevenson - Programme Director for MSc in Science Communications and Public Engagement (for accepting me into her programme and guiding through three years of study!)