Three good reasons for why engaging in popular science is useful for scientists

If you as a researcher had a tool that would both increase your writing skills and help you to reach out to a broader audience and potential funders – would you use it? Research communication is such a tool. Or, more correctly, it’s a tool package containing instruments such as public-oriented presentations, popular science articles, engagement in social media, blogging, and more.

Here are three reasons why engaging in popular science makes you a better researcher:


  1. Building professional identity

Popular science dissemination helps the researcher to export her science to a wider audience compared to traditional scientific dissemination. Reaching out to a wide audience is important in many aspects. Research does not happen in solitude and researchers are dependent on cooperation with other researchers and research institutions. Networking is consequently a crucial element here.

This is also a question about legitimacy. Publicly funded research are paid for by tax-payers and the results should thus be easily accessible also outside academic circles.

Further, popular science dissemination is a great way to increase a researcher’s professional identity, which in term will increase the institutional reputation of the institution to which the researcher belongs.


  1. Better funding opportunities

Reaching out to a broader audience also means reaching out to potential funders. This is relevant also because a researcher who engages in various channels, for instance through blogging, social media, television or book writing, becomes more visible also for funders. More funding institutions require a plan for dissemination when funding a research project, and a solid plan for science –  both popular and traditional – dissemination helps strengthening funding applications.


  1. Better research

Science communication is not only a question for researchers about reaching out to a wide audience, be that other researchers, potential funders, or the public. It is also about giving the audience easy access to researchers. Giving the audience an opportunity to comment and follow research secures reciprocity. This approach ensures that the researchers are in tune with the real world and can potentially increase knowledge around a certain topic.

Research groups that are visible also outside academia may spur interest for a certain research topic, which in turn may help recruiting new researchers to the field.

So, how do you as researcher get going with popular dissemination? It is not necessary to engage in book writing or appearing on television to reach out to a broad audience. Writing articles and op-eds in magazines and journals, for instance Aftenposten Viten, and NRK ytring, is a great way to communicate your research with new groups.

Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and ResearchGate, provides platforms where posts potentially can reach an enormous audience. Blogging is another great way for researchers to write about aspects by their research that do not necessarily gets encapsuled in academic dissemination.

An example from the blog of the Norwegian Research School of Global Health suits as a good illustration of how blogging can benefit researchers. Hanneke Pot from UiO wrote a blog post about doing field work in Malawi. The blog post was shared on various channels, including Facebook. Some weeks after the blog post was published, Hanneke was contacted by a film crew engaged in a film project that included some of the aspects Hanneke was doing her research on. This way, Hanneke achieved more attention to her research project and enhanced her network with actors engaged in topics that are of great importance for her research project. A win-win situation, both for the researcher and for the film crew.

There is no doubt that researchers than benefit from engaging in popular science, so pick up your tool box and get started!


Would you like to contribute to the blog or are you looking for input on how to engage in popular science in general? Feel free to contact Turid Austin Wæhler or Elin Yli Dvergsdal from The Norwegian Research School of Global Health.