Alan Alda spoke at the AAAS meeting in Chicago on the theme of communicating science to the public. We often view the communication of science, be it in one’s own scholarly journals or in mass media, as somehow distinct and meaningfully different from other communication styles. However, Alda made the point repeatedly during his presentation that this should not be the case. One can accurately convey science with stories and an engaging style that not only brings the reader along in the discovery process, but also preserves the truth and validity of the underlying discovery. Alda made the point that “Communication is not something you add on to science, it is of the essence of science.” Publishers can help to improve how science is communicated; indeed it is at the core of what publishers bring to the process of distributing science.
As science publishers, we hear a lot about the potential for new technologies. Often this comes in the form of a pitch from someone looking to sell you on either the technology they’re offering or on their expertise. In trying to see through the salesmanship, it’s important to have some general rules of thumb for approaching the integration of social media as tools for the research science community.