Chris Gunter and Anne Osterrieder in writing A modest proposal for an outreach section in scientific publications (in Genome Biology) suggested:

We propose that scientific publications include a short section, akin to the acknowledgments at the end, which lists several outreach activities related to the paper. These could be new resources that the authors have created, or existing resources that are related to the paper’s subject(s) – the goal is to reach out across that gap and help non-expert readers understand the work.

This could provide a space to tie the formal publication and the out-reach efforts together, which might both aid readers from outside the research environment and perhaps help tie outreach efforts into academic credit more readily. (As the authors noted, it would provide a means to verify the outreach was done.)

Several of the top-end journals do outreach of various kinds, using their in-house science communication professionals. Less wealthy[1] journals might instead offer such as a space for those scientists who wish to provide better ‘reach’ for their work themselves.

The authors cite the example of the media and outreach efforts of ‘space science’ (their words) as something the biological science might aspire to. I can’t help think it needs to be borne in mind that NASA and their ilk have substantial professional outreach teams, something smaller universities and research institutes in particular would struggle to match.

It’s also worth noting that a recent paper I covered found that the number of media presentations correlated with the prestige of the university, which the authors suspected was due to the better press offices being found in those institutes.

The recent ENOCDE project[2] is one recent example in the biological sciences with a larger media ‘push’ (although some have criticised aspects of it).

What do readers think of Gunter and Osterrieder’s suggestion?


A modest proposal for an outreach section in scientific publications

Chris Gunter and Anne Osterrieder

Genome Biology 2012, 13:168 doi:10.1186/gb-2012-13-8-168 (DOI not found at time of writing.)

Journal website page: http://genomebiology.com/2012/13/8/168


1. I’m not quite sure if this is quite the right adjective, but let it stand.

2. I still haven’t gotten around to starting to get my ENCODE thoughts out. Sigh.

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Teaching students to write scientific papers

Coiling bacterial DNA

Aww, crap.

Professors, lost souls with great oratory power?