About Stephan van Duin

Stephan enjoys the process of understanding complex matters and being able to present them in a comprehensible way. His vision is that science and society can benefit from clear science communication, and that technology can aid this development in various ways, from science websites for the public to academic e-learning for students.

Why your EU project website is a great opportunity

Your research website is not about you Most subsidies require that you create a website about your project. But who are you making it for? Spoiler: it's not the subsidizer. It's not even you or your consortium. It's the general public and other stakeholders of your project! Unfortunately, most research websites are still obligatory monstrosities devoid of relevance and beauty - they're very tick-the-boxes and sender-oriented. Dissemination might be a requirement that you view as a distraction from what you're actually doing in your project, but we're here to convince you otherwise. Why not make something of it, when you have this amazing chance to tell the wide world about your topic? And make no mistake: the grant supplier will be happier about it as well, so it's not just a vanity thing. Let's get going. It's an EU requirement to be relevant to your audience Let's clear the air about one thing first. It's not a requirement anymore to just create outreach through websites, flyers etc. If you run an EU project, it's actually a requirement to make your outreach relevant to your audience! This audience includes professional stakeholders (f.i. industry) for sure, but also the general population who is going to benefit from your project, or perhaps specific geographical groups. So why can't you just make a website on which you present your work packages, a horrific logo and an overview of all partners involved? Because that is very sender-oriented, and focused on the 'who.' That needs to change. What you use your website for is to explain the 'why' of your project - the who is only of secondary importance. Consider this, from the European Charter for Researchers: “Researchers should ensure that [...]


How much should you budget for your EU-project website?

Here you are, expert in your academic field. And you have found equally qualified partners to create a consortium around a really exciting piece of research. You have everything settled and your research budget is excellent. The project proposal is almost done! But then you realize you have this damned obligatory communication section to add to your proposal…and now you are lost. It’s tempting to turn this into an afterthought, but the proposal evaluators will notice. Not to worry: we will explain how to budget for the most important and basic part of this: the website. Why create a website for your EU project? When you're considering how to execute your communication and dissemination plan, you will quickly find that a website basically sits at the optimum for reach, cost, and depth. A proper website has the potential to reach an enormous audience while costing relatively little, and with endless opportunities for customization and layering information to serve various audiences. Websites can be the platform for more complicated forms of science communication too, like infographics, animations or e-learning. How to create a website that satisfies the EU requirements A basic website that will please the European Commission needs a few things (there are some varieties based on the specific call): Relevant logos and project acronym.A statement that the EU has funded this project.Links to relevant partners and other projects.Contact information.News (milestones, publications, activities) concerning the project.Basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make sure people find the website.GDPR compliance (this becomes more significant when you use the website to collect data).Optional: a .eu extension with your domain.Optional: a section for media inquiries. Mind you, depending on the exact call the requirements may vary, but these suggestions [...]


The one essential thing about talking to the media as a scientist

Let’s say you’re being approached by a journalist working on a story, and he or she asks you to talk about your research. What is the single most important thing to keep in mind if you want to be realistic and fair? Spoiler alert: it’s not about jargon… No, the main issue to keep in mind is how you are going to fit your research topic (or field of expertise) into the scope of the story of the journalist. It doesn’t matter much if it will be written or for radio or TV; the journalist will have an angle, a question or something that makes him or her want to make this story. In most cases, the scope of the story will be much bigger than the topic you’re working on. The journalist is asking what will stop climate change, and you are busy developing a new type of connector that will facilitate more efficient solar panels, for example. Or the journalist wants to know what the future will look like for cancer patients, and you are working on in-silico models that will one day help select the most promising candidate medicines. This is obviously not wrong, but there are right and wrong ways to connect those two different levels of scale or magnitude. Your research field versus the scope of the article Let’s look at it visually. Here’s a conceptual representation of a story, a field that is relevant to that story, and then your particular research. As you can see the story is the biggest and encompasses your field, which in turn encompasses your individual topic. Let’s skip the level of the field (although the same principles apply), and focus on your research. [...]


Why you should make science communications easy to understand

If you read our blogs, you’ll notice that we talk a lot about making whatever you publish about science easy to understand. This may feel repetitive sometimes. And being scientists ourselves we get why you may think it’s the least important part of any presentation. Facts are everything right? Well….not really. Facts are key, but if no one is able to reproduce what you’re saying, then all the facts in the world are not going to make a difference. In short: Facts + clarity = impact To quench that thirst for a more in-depth explanation of that other side if the medal, here’s an entire blog devoted to why we think it is key to any talk, article or website to be easy to understand. Introducing mental bandwidth Every person, whether they’re old, young, rich, poor, man, woman, soldier or scientist, has a certain mental bandwidth. That bandwidth, like a talent, varies between people, but what doesn’t change is that it’s finite. And various things can take it up. When you have to keep track of a shopping list you are using bandwidth. When you have to remember until what time your parking meter has been paid, you are using it too. But it also works on a longer term: financial troubles or a sick child can take up a lot of bandwidth. And just like with an internet connection, trying to download too much at the same time will slow everything down. If nobody can understand your message, no facts will make a difference in the impact you have with your communication! Not all burdens are created equal Some people are incredible at keeping lists in their head, while others find it easy to [...]


How to write your scientific presentation in 5 easy steps

You have been invited to a well-known international conference to give a presentation – what an honour! Your first thought may be to get started right away by copying graphs from your publications into a slide, or dragging and dropping content from your archive of premade slides and clip-art into an empty presentation… Don’t open PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi just yet. If you really want to make an impact with this presentation, you need to think about why you want to present. Get your goal clear first, because when nobody understands why you’re giving a presentation, none of the tips we’ll share here will save you. This blog will help you go through the storytelling process and get to the point where you can actually start building it (and where this blog about improving your slide design will help you further). 1 Define your goal: what do you want to achieve with this talk? More often than not, you will be asked to give a presentation without being provided with a goal for that presentation by the people who invite you. So you are free to pick your own! And unless you’re merely entertaining (and aren’t you better than that?) you will need to think about your goals and what you want to achieve with your talk. Even when your only goal is to entertain, that is your goal. Examples of presentation goals: I want to get more grants and impress the subsidizers in the audience I want to advocate for my science and show my peers that my latest research is important for the progress in this field I want to change policy, and raise an alarm with the public officials about this trend [...]