Many scientists’ websites are aimed at communicating with other scientists, including potential collaborators, students, or staff. However, Americans are now more likely to rely on the internet than other sources for information and news about science and technology. Including a public-facing portion of an institutional, lab, and/or personal website (i.e., a section that uses plain language to concisely describe your research) is a smart strategy for providing information of greater use to public audiences.
Websites are also avenues for members of the media or public to find you and engage in other ways – to invite you for an interview, to speak at an upcoming public event, or to ask a question related to your work. For these opportunities to happen, non-experts need to be able to quickly understand the focus of your work, just from looking at your website.
When developing your website, consider the following tips:
- Make a conscious effort to keep your website dynamic, interesting, and fresh with concise content and intuitive, easy-to-follow formatting. Avoid multiple click-throughs in order to reach content, minimize redundancy, and highlight key takeaway points.
- While a text-heavy website outlining the details of your latest study may be interesting for your fellow researchers, consider your potential reach if you present information in an engaging way through multimedia and social media (drawing on a variety of connected platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or blogs).
- Complete technical understanding is not necessary to have a website. Platforms such as WordPress or Blogger allow you as an individual to manage content easily in a blog-like format, with a website feel.
- If your website or page is hosted by your institution, the web services team may provide coaching, training, or support. There may also be guidelines governing content, format, and tone of the site, as well as accessibility for audiences with disabilities. Your communication or administrative officer should be able to point you to the best contact to find out more.
What does a successful science-related website look like? See examples below:
Arthur Lupia’s personal website highlights his research and professional interests using language accessible to non-scientists.
Kim Cobb’s Lab: Paleoclimate and Climate Change
Kim Cobb’s lab website presents her research using lay language and links to her additional web presence. She also uses a Twitter plug-in to engage visitors.
University of Miami: Shark Research
The University of Miami’s Shark Research website displays dynamic graphics and offers quick links to educational opportunities and the lab’s blog.