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AAAS and Science Use Facebook Live to Spread Research Discoveries

AAAS Facebook Live broadcasts have covered a wide range of new research, from the behavior of pumas in the wild to cutting-edge space robots. | Neil Orman/AAAS

Authors whose research is accepted for publication by Science may think the journal’s involvement ends at publication. But acceptance at one of the Science family of journals marks the beginning of a separate process to communicate scientists’ work with public audiences.

For years, the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has used multiple communications methods to ensure its original research, policy forums and editorials are covered by leading media outlets.

Each week, AAAS staff translate complex research into clearly written summaries of forthcoming Science family journal papers and collect illustrations and videos from authors and institutional press offices for reporters to use. Staff distribute the materials to more than 6,000 reporters globally, every Sunday. They also pitch the materials to news outlets, hold reporter briefings, and – once papers are published – use social media for public outreach. These efforts result in thousands of global news stories annually on breaking research from the journals. In 2018, for example, studies from the six Science family journals were the source of more than 1,500 stories in 25 high-profile North American and European online news outlets.

Over the past 18 months, the Science family of journals has taken on a new form of social media outreach – Facebook Live broadcasts – organizing 50 broadcasts on newly published research, ranging from the behavior of pumas in the wild to cutting-edge space robots. Live broadcasts have generated more than 10,000 interactions on Facebook, including thousands of public comments about the findings and researchers to further their own understanding.

Scientists who participate as presenters in the live broadcasts also draw inspiration from the discussions. AFBL event on Science Robotics content from two papers, for instance, featured authors in related fields talking publicly about the intersection of each of their work on social robots.

“It is really a great idea to involve authors from different teams in these events,” said Pascal Huguet, director of research at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France. “This is important not only for the live chat itself, but also for the possibility offered to researchers from different teams to meet live, which encourages collaborations. This is what we expect when attending scientific meetings. What you offer with this version of the live chat maximizes collaborations between people from different scientific areas, which is crucial to make new discoveries.”

During the FBL, Huguet discussed his recently published Science Robotics study on how individuals respond to “mean robots” alongside researchers who discussed a Science Robotics study on the benefits of social robots as tutors.

Audience engagement has been both positive and, in some cases, overwhelming. A discussion of the plight of “Dreamers” pursuing STEM majors in college garnered more than 2,000 interactions, including nearly 300 comments on the original post. Other broadcasts have also proved popular. Viewers interacted nearly 750 times to a discussion with scientists about their research using the gene-editing tool CRISPR to develop treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The authors of the Science editorial “Harassment in Science Is Real” elicited nearly 800 interactions from their viewing audience. Other popular broadcasts included discussions about a robot fish, new research on asthma, and alternative painkillers that could replace opioids.

Authors routinely comment on how research published in the Science family of journals reaches a larger, more diverse audience than they had anticipated. In 2017, for instance, Terence Dermody of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh reached out to AAAS staff about a report he co-authored on celiac disease: “We had more press coverage for this paper than any other we have published.” Exposing the public to important research findings benefits scientists and society, as well as the scientific enterprise across the globe.

 

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Authors

Meagan Phelan

Science Press Package Executive Director

Gadi Ben-Yehuda