The Five Things I Learned at the Council of Science Editors Meeting

Posted by: in Communication Strategy, Healthcare Insights on May 5, 2011

Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to be included on a panel at the annual Council of Science Editors meeting, a gathering of the people who help build the research-oriented journals through which scientific knowledge is validated and announced. Thanks to Bill Silberg, who moderated our panel on getting media attention in a wired world, and to fellow-panelists Ivan Oransky of Reuters Health and Jann Ingmire from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Here is what I took away:

  1. The secret sauce of social media is no longer a secret: Though scientific and medical journals are not all on the bleeding edge of social media, the questions from our audience were incredibly thoughtful. The general sentiment: everyone understands that it’s not enough just to be present on social media platforms, you have to be engagement oriented. That’s a crucial evolution in how content creators view social tools.
  2. Multimedia is a have-to-have, not a nice-to-have, to maximize impact: Jann mentioned that the video from their publication of a study on the impact of cell phones on the brain was viewed — in various formats — by around 93 million people. As Jann said: “Those are close to Super Bowl-type numbers.” Not everyone prefers text (or video or audio), but trying to stretch content across as many media as possible can enormously boost the impact of a given message.
  3. Influence measurement is never as easy as it looks: Over the past year, there has been a tremendous interest in measuring influence in social media (an effort both ambitious and easy to criticize). Though not directly related, the struggle to rank journals may be illustrative of that challenge. The amount of continuing scrutiny on “impact factor” is a reminder that quantifying something subjective — no matter how much data is available — is an inherently tricky process.
  4. The future belongs to those who love data: This is a common theme and comes as no surprise. In addition a passion for the data being published, the CSE attendees were interested in data on data (including a presentation “forensic bioinformatics” and rooting out fraud) and data on readership and relationships (the stuff of social media insights). That’s a lot of data.
  5. When you’re pitching journalists, never, ever call a journalist to confirm that an email has arrived: This is a basic point, but one so often violated that it was the very first tip Ivan shared. It’s a personal mission of mine to stamp out that practice. (For the rest of Ivan’s outreach tips, check out his presentation on SlideShare.)

(I know the list-as-post format is cliched, but it is a nice way of giving snapshots of complex events. Forgive me.)

Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to be included on a panel at the annual Council of Science Editors meeting, a gathering of the people who help build the research-oriented journals through which scientific knowledge is validated and announced. Thanks to Bill Silberg, who moderated our panel on getting media attention in a wired world, and to fellow-panelists Ivan Oransky of Reuters Health and Jann Igmire from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Here is what I took away:

1. The secret sauce of social media is no longer a secret: Though scientific and medical journals are not all on the bleeding edge of social media, the questions from our audience were incredibly thoughtful. The general sentiment: everyone understands that it’s not enough just to be present on social media platforms, you have to be engagement oriented. That’s a crucial understanding.

2. Multimedia is a have-to-have, not a nice-to-have: Jann mentioned that the video from their publication of a study on the impact of cell phones on the brain was viewed — in various formats — by somewhere around 90 million people. As Jann said: “Those are close to Super Bowl-type numbers.” Not everyone prefers text (or video or audio), but trying to stretch content across as many media as possible can enormously boost the impact.

3. Influence measurement is never as easy as it looks: Over the past year, there has been a tremendous interest in measuring influence in social media (an effort both ambitious and easy to criticize). But scientific journals have been struggling to rank themselves for years, and the amount of continuing dialogue on “impact factor” suggests that quantifying something subjective — no matter how much data is available — is an inherently tricky process.

4. The future belongs to those who love data. This is a common theme and comes as no surprise. In addition to publishing data, the CSE attendees were interested in data on data (including a presentation “forensic bioinformatics” and rooting out fraud) and data on readership and relationships (the stuff of social media insights).

5. When you’re pitching journalists, never, ever call a journalist to confirm that an email has arrived. This is a basic point, but one so often violated that Ivan mentioned it first. It’s a personal mission of mine to stamp out that practice. (For the rest of Ivan’s outreach tips, check out his presentation on SlideShare.)

(I know the list-as-post format is cliched, but it is a nice way of giving snapshots of complex events.)

By: Brian Reid

Brian Reid is a managing director at W2O Group, where he oversees influencer relations. He is a former journalist who believes content really is king.

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