It turns out public engagement is good for your science career
How Massive editorial has grown, and where we're going: reports!
I joined Massive last summer with the goal of building it into a daily science media site for the public completely authored by active STEM researchers. Our working theory was that the data-driven facts and theories that scientists take for granted in their work remain largely inaccessible to everyone else – not because scientists want to hoard world knowledge, but because talking about their work in a non-jargony way isn't part of scientific training. And further, this knowledge chasm deprives everyone outside of STEM – from policy makers, to parents, to corporate stakeholders – of crucial knowledge that could help us all make smarter decisions about the world around us.
So, we thought, what if we create a place that both teaches scientists how to communicate what they know to the public and engages an audience for that work?
And that, dear reader, is what we did. We work one-on-one with scientists to teach them how to craft what they know into compelling, accessible narratives.* Then we harness our media skills to push the story out to the wider public.
It's been incredibly rewarding to everyone involved: about 100 scientists have written stories for Massive – and 36 of them have done so more than once. And monthly site traffic has grown 260 percent in the past six months.
Some might argue that this engagement actually doesn't matter for science. One of our recent stories was about an intra-science controversy over whether public communication is valuable to scientists or just a distraction from time better spent writing grants and analyzing data sets. After all, science is a cutthroat field – the vast majority of people who enter STEM PhD programs are unable to find a tenure-track job after graduation.
That's why the most exciting part of watching our idea bear fruit is this: we've found that being an effective science communicator has concrete, positive effects on researchers' careers.
Since last summer, Massive writers:
- have had their work syndicated in Slate, Salon, Quartz, Pacific Standard, Alternet, the Genetic Literacy Project, The Wire of India, and RealClearScience
- have gotten a book deal based on a piece that ran on the site
- were asked to write the opening op-ed in an upcoming issue of Nature
- were interviewed on the BBC and CBC
- adapted Massive pieces into audio essays for Story Collider
- were accepted as Massive-TEDMED scholars
And we're just getting started.
As of next month, in addition to our daily Massive stories, subscribers can access monthly reports that elucidate and unpack hot topics from a science-driven perspective. If you subscribe before May, you get the first report free!
We've hired some of our most experienced scientist-writers to craft our inaugural Massive Science Report, on GMOs. They include biochemist Dan Samorodnitsky, marine geologist Gabriela Serrato Marks, molecular biologist Jackie Grimm, and plant biologists Devang Mehta and Marco Giovannetti.
We consider Massive Science Reports the next logical step in our project to help scientists and the public understand one another. Scientists are using their expertise and research training to craft accessible, living documents with information about the best way to make informed, science-driven decisions about real issues in our everyday lives.
Tl;dr: it's impactful science communication in action – the ultimate news you can use. Don't miss out: subscribe today.
*Shoutout to our editorial team – story editors Alan Yuhas, Kat Bagley, and Lois Parshley, and assistant editor Ashley Juavinett – who have been central to our efforts to make scicomm great again.