The #SciCommChat is a weekly tweetchat about everything science communication. Every week it attracts a diverse international mix of professional science communicators, from all corners of science. Initiated by freelance science writer Nidhi Parekh, also known as @TheSharedScope on Twitter, it has developed into a great community event of people sharing tips, tricks, do’s, don’ts and their experiences in science communication. Here is how it works.
The tweetchat is co-hosted by a different person every week, who will ask the community five questions during the one-hour event. These questions are often based on the specific expertise of this person, or the opposite, where the co-host is looking to learn something new from the attendees.
On Wednesday 8 December 2021 the event was co-hosted by Powering Space co-director Remco Timmermans. The topic he chose was ‘Tools of the Trade’, looking to learn about the tools that the science communication community uses to, well, communicate science. Please find below a little summary of the discussions that evolved:
Q1: What aids do you use to help you create good stories?
@SciCommClub: I think I have some personal templates, cheatsheets, etc. that I use but none that really come to mind right now. I look them up when I need them and then forget about them, haha. Although I have some email templates that I use v often when I contact new businesses!
Oh, another thing that I use a LOT of is the template for the #SciCommChat slides that you all see here, lol. I may switch them up in the new year? TBD!
More recently, I have created templates for organic content strategies and community guides for clients – v v handy!
@lorenzoni_nina: It’s a great list, thanks for sharing! I had to laugh when seeing question 1 “Have you involved your target audience?” Something actually so obvious, but so often not done by researchers
@LoriPalenPhD: I’m not sure if this is totally what you’re getting at, but there are a few frameworks that I use to think about scientific storytelling (courtesy of @ABTagenda and @nancyduarte)… ABT, The Hero’s Journey, and the 3-Act structure.
@thegsyscientist: I have a PPT full of pre-sized templates for all social media e.g. FB event banner 1920 x 1005 pixels, plus company fonts and colour scheme set. Although I’ve just started using Canva and like it a lot!
@SciCommClub: I absolutely love Canva and use it for these #SciCommChat slides. I do wish that there was a way to publish from Canva to Twitter AND allow accessibility features like Alt text. But considering they don’t support that just now, I download the slides, add alt text, and schedule.
Q2: What tools help you get your stories out to your audiences?
I used the one-month trial of Repurpose. It is very useful. It did not work for me as I did not want to pay many subscriptions as I started my podcast as a separate project without funding. I think http://Headliner.app offer the same tools without paying.
@MariahUnoquit: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram…oh my! I would be stumbling if Buffer didn’t have me skipping along with my social media posts! Each piece of content gets planned out across multiple platforms and multiple times/ways.
@timmermansr: I really like @SproutSocial, but find the pricing challenging for running many (client) accounts. I have been a long-time Hootsuite user, which for me is more cost-effective, but I actually think the (free!) legacy tools for Twitter, LI, IG etc. work great too.
@sabrina_gaber: Quick read on how to improve scientific communication, because, you know, “Scientific presentations are too often boring and ineffective” (eek!)
Q3: Focussing on online, what are your favourite online #SciComm tools and platforms?
@SciCommClub: Aahhh, tools! Here are some I use:
- Grammarly for grammar and typo finding.
- ahrefs for SEO.
- For content ideation – Google Adwords, Keyword Planner, http://answerthepublic.com, Google Trends, and this community!
- For images Canva and BioRender.
- For content distribution – Later, Typefully (for Twitter threads), and Twitter’s own scheduler.
- For inspiration – Pinterest and Coschedule (specifically for headlines)
- For accounts – QuickBooks and Dext
- Other than that – Google Docs, Unsplash (rights-free images), Flat Icon (free icons and stickers)
- Oh, and for newsletters and curation, I just signed on to @revue. Subscribe to the #SciCommChat newsletter here!
I’ve also written about budget-friendly tools I use before.
@rocket_ship_em: I have a very similar list to the above except I use the LanguageTool browser extension (available on Firefox and Chrome, but I haven’t checked other browsers). It’s fairly run of the mill but I prefer it’s UI to that of Grammarly.
@AnthroAdryon: Typefully.app is a great rec, thank you! I’m still very much getting the hang of Twitter–it’s been amazing to see how powerful and dialogic this platform is and I still don’t quite know how to use it to the greatest impact for my research.
@timmermansr: I have a long list of tools that I use:
- For blogging: WordPress
- For posting on social: Hootsuite and Buffer
- For online marketing: HubSpot
- For hashtag/event stats: TweetBinder
- For posting blog content: Blog2Social
Q4: What are your favourite software and mobile apps for creating multimedia content?
@tinkagw: VideoScribe is a simple but powerful animation tool that doesn’t need so much technical know-how. My life has been easier ever since I started using it 2 to 3 years ago. Not forgetting Wondershare Filmora
It has some already-made stuff you can put together. But you could download/buy more scribes. I personally learnt how to make my own. It’s quite fast: depends on what you are working upon. I could make their 1-minute video here in 30 to 45 minutes.
@SciCommClub: I hear TikTok is stellar for creating video content and downloading it to put onto other channels. For the most part, I use the iPhone camera (my phone is old and needs a replacement) and Canva.
@scottishscicomm: Evening folks, will always recommend Canva for this. Incredibly intuitive, has a free version and you can make things look very professional
I make Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube content on there. It’s highly customizable and comes with the dimension templates that work for platforms. I don’t really make a lot of TikTok content yet, but it has the functionality you need.
@SciCommClub: Amazing, this is great to know! I use Canva for Twitter, insta and Facebook but never thought of doing more with it. I also did my CV on it lol!
Q5: What about hardware? What are your favourite gadgets for content creation?
@CabreraMarie: I have only bought a good mic for recording the podcast.
@timmermansr: I use my old trusted iPhone for most video recording, but always with a decent microphone and preferably a tripod! On the road I now use an Atumtek tripod/selfiestick and lapel microphone. I also use a Zoom H1n microphone/recorder. Good sound is critical!
@thegsyscientist: I find the huge variety of lights, mics, cameras a bit overwhelming and am stuck in the quicksand of “I can’t decide what’s appropriate” so at present am very low tech with mobile, laptop & tablet.
@Artemis_On_Mars: Blue Yeti microphone (a life changer as far as I am concerned) and my – trusted – Logitech streamcam that is so very kind in lighting my face in a way that it takes years and years of my real age. I prefer keyboard to phone, but I will type away on my phone if needed.
@RidgewayStories: I think mobile phones are the best tool for digital/social media. For video production, good lights and audio equipment last a long time and keep value. (Rode Wireless Go 2s are amazing).
@BayerStrategic: One last thing: wearing headphones while recording episodes. Guests’ sound won’t be picked up by mic from your computer speakers, as the headphones are the speakers. Helps clarity of recording.
@thegsyscientist: Any recommendations for mics for outdoor recording with mobile/camera. A lot of my videos are at filmed at sea or on the shore and this island is WINDY!
@timmermansr: Any microphone that comes with a wind cover. Some people call it a dead cat, that goes over the mic. Works perfectly fine! Also a lapel microphone clipped under your coat will work, as long as the coat is not too thick.
@MadScientistPod: For podcasting I use Garageband on Mac or Audacity on Windows machines. We have an editor @bakedchardinal who is responsible for 99% of our sound improvement, but what also helped was purchasing a mixing board and using padding behind us.
Also getting a good mic for your setup is essential. Knowing the different types of mics for what you need makes a big difference for example: https://chrissoundlab.com/what-is-a-cardioid-microphone/
A really good beginner friendly cardioid USB/XLR mic option is this one.
A lot of sound quality comes down to lowering the extraneous noises the mic picks up in the first place. Recording in a carpeted room, with a blanket hung up behind you can lead to big sound improvements!
#SciCommChat is a public chat on Twitter, that is accessible to anyone with a Twitter account! It is held every Wednesday at 18:00 UTC/GMT.
How to join? Follow @SciCommClub on Twitter to receive all information on the week’s theme and to get alerts before the start.
Otherwise, here is the very simple how to:
More details on how to participate in this weekly chat: (blogpost)
Would you like to co-host a future session? Here is how to go about that!