Stephan v Duin

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.

How do you pick your target audience?

When you start thinking about doing science communication, one of the first things to come up is your target audience – in fact, it’s right in the beginning of our Basics of Science Communication workshop! But deciding on that audience can be tricky. In this blog, we’ll discuss the essential question you need to ask yourself before you settle on a certain public: Where is the locus of control when it comes to my message? This question is important, because it helps you to decide who needs to hear your message if you want to make a change, have impact! If the average citizen can take action and have results by themselves, then they have the locus of control. If they need the government to take action for them to benefit, then the locus of control is with the government. The same goes for companies and other potential stakeholders. Who is in charge of changing behavior? Let’s say you want to have a positive impact on the health of the population by changing their diet for the better. This means that you can speak to and influence the control that citizens can exert over their own lives: knowledge might make them change behavior, as does taking away barriers that keep them from changing behavior. The best is to combine the two: ‘If you eat this and this you lower your risk of heart disease – and here is a recipe to help you incorporate it into daily practice!’ Of course, there can and often will be multiple centers of control. That just means that you may have to take various routes with your efforts to make the biggest ripples. In this case, the government, restaurants [...]


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 research 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. A website is a great opportunity for science communication! 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. Example of a research website 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. [...]


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

Let’s say you’re 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 asks what will stop climate change, and you are busy developing a new type of connector that will facilitate more efficient solar panels. Or the journalist wants to know what the future will look like for cancer patients. Meanwhile, 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. Once the journalist comes [...]


Why you should make science communication 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. But science communication is here to stay, so it pays to learn to do it right. To quench that thirst for a more in-depth explanation, 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, no matter their education, background, gender or income, has a certain capacity for retaining, processing and remembering information. This is described by the Cognitive Load Theory, which states that people have a limited short term memory and working memory. To make it easier to talk about, we pooled these limited capacities into ‘mental bandwidth’. It’s a nice metaphor because cognitive load does resemble your internet connection: when you’re just emailing and browsing everything is fine, but download and install a large game or software update, and you reach the limits of your connection and every activity just goes a little bit slower. Listening and reading at the same time doesn't work Your bandwidth is most obvious when you’re dealing with two competing streams of information, say listening and reading at the same time. This is why bad slides full of text or unclear information are so detrimental to the success of a presentation. You are confronted with a slide with the fluffiest graphs, vague text (and lots of it!) and no conclusions, you will stop listening and devote all your mental bandwidth to the ‘puzzle’ on screen. [...]


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: Maybe you want to... get more grants and impress the subsidizers in the audience advocate for your science and show your peers that your latest research is important for the progress in this field change policy, and raise an alarm with the public officials about this trend you discovered raise an alarm [...]