After you’ve spent months and maybe even years on your academic research and now finally have it published, what happens next? Will the general public read and understand your research? Will this article sit on someone’s shelf and collect dust or will it attract the attention of the general public? After all, the ultimate goal of scientific research is to provide information and scientific advances to everyone.
The reality is that academic publications focus on specific topics. Moreover, the general public does not read most journals. However, the scientific community is looking for ways to involve the general public in their research. This public engagement can include different aspects. For example, this public participation can have special benefits for the researchers of a study to the extent that it involves the public in fundraising and the dissemination of information.
In this DoNotEdit article, we discuss ways to increase the chance of public participation in research papers to make sure that they read your paper.
Perception of the General Public
Some researchers tend to ignore the general public because they think their research is too complicated for the layperson to understand.
This attitude reflects in the way they write their papers because they use a lot of scientific terms when writing their papers. There may also be too much data that makes it difficult to find the main point.
As a result, researchers limit the dissemination of their discoveries only to a subset of the population. However, this is not the purpose of scientific research. We need to think more broadly and involve the public as much as possible.
Sense About Science strives for openness and honesty in all areas of research. They created a five-step protocol to help researchers provide the public with information on open-heart surgery in children.
This was a very sensitive subject and difficult to present. Still, the funding sources wanted to ensure that the public received the information. More and more, funding sources want to know how research findings will benefit the public before they fund your project. The challenge is to ensure that your research is interesting and understandable.
The five steps created to ensure that the public is engaged in your research are as follows:
This is just another term for “assessing” the interest in your research. You might turn to social media, blogs, and chatrooms to discuss your project. Through this, you can get a good feeling of how much interest is out there in public forums.
Determine your audience. Look beyond the obvious audience of scholarly articles and find other people who might be interested in your study.
For example, if you were to do a study on gray wolves in Nebraska, who would be your audience most likely? Farmers are your audience. These citizens are likely to be the ones who attend public meetings and discuss their concerns.
Now that you have identified your audience, focus on how to present your findings and ways to present them in an understandable and colloquial way. Use specific language and format (as said before – not too technical). For example, use graphs, charts, and other images instead of text.
Graphical presentations are always more interesting than plain text. There are many graphics programs that can help you create powerful visuals and presentations. So be sure to take a look at them.
Your research project should at least involve the public for advice. Get feedback from the public about your findings and how to present them.
At this point, it’s likely that those with whom you’ve communicated about your research will continue to be interested and even help find ways to share it with others. Take advantage of this opportunity.
Why Should We Care Whether the Public is Involved?
Public engagement is a necessity. Although we may not believe that public participation in our research is valuable, many funding providers and institutions encourage researchers to ensure public participation.
Consider that funding is not only very important for ongoing research but its provision is also an issue itself. If these resources insist on public participation, it is worth your time and effort to ensure that this happens.
The author of the recent article reminds us that the European Commission very much encourages open research, data, and access to data. This makes public participation even more important for scientific and non-scientific research.
Benefits of Public Engagement
When the public is involved in scientific output, they reap the benefits of the educational and research background they are involved in. This is important because engaging people open up communication channels.
This issue can also have many positive results, such as shared resources and knowledge with communities, schools, and government agencies. Researchers may also find a larger pool of funding and may even pursue more research on the same topic. Universities may benefit from additional funding as a result of better information dissemination.
There is a misinterpretation of scientific data, and active two-way communication between the public and researchers helps to resolve these issues. This is especially important in such areas as medical research and finding new treatments for various diseases.
For example, the study on public participation in open-heart surgery research mentioned above strongly affected everyone involved, from children themselves to siblings and grandparents. Furthermore, misinterpretation of this research can lead to unnecessary worry and even panic. Public participation also helped design a website that provided very clear information to avoid any unnecessary worry.
Therefore, you are encouraged to adopt a public participation approach in all your studies. Organizations like Sense About Science can help you with this process.
Please answer the following questions in the comments section. If necessary, you can use informational links.
You are researching anemia. How can you find a forum where you can discuss your research and findings? How do you find local communities interested in your research?