Our science communication training is free again. Here's why

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Our science communication training is free again. Here's why

Here's what we learned, why it failed, and what we're trying next

Working with scientists over the last few years has taught us many things, but the most important may be the value of openly acknowledging failure so that everyone can learn from it. This is one of those moments for us at Massive.

A few months ago, we launched a paid online training, certification, and membership program for STEM researchers to learn and apply science communication skills. Through our experience training hundreds of scientists online, conducting market research, and talking to our community and partners, we thought beginning to charge for our training, certification, and membership in our community was a logical next step for both our company and our community.

We were wrong.

Many fantastic new members who understand the value of science communication have since signed up. But pursuing paid training and membership as an income source meant that we had to generalize and scale our programs in ways that didn't feel natural or sustainable.

The fabulous scientists in our community come to us because they want to do more than just learn how to communicate: they want to actively engage with a public audience through our online publishing platform. That's why our training and certification process mostly focuses on pitching and writing online science content. 

Understandably, not every scientist who's interested in scicomm wants to participate in this particular kind of engagement. As a result, when we started charging for training we had to bend what we do best – helping researchers connect with science-curious public audiences – into a one-size-fits-all program that was frankly too complicated and, we've learned, wasn't the right fit for our community or our audience.

Instead, we're going to simplify things and return to what we do best: helping scientists and the public understand each other. To start, we'll be refunding every researcher who paid for membership since we launched. In the coming days, we'll be returning our Consortium to a free model that provides initial training and certification and then pays researchers to produce content on a freelance basis. And we'll be focusing on serving the specific subset of researchers who want to meaningfully engage with our audience, not everyone interested in all forms of science communication.

Speaking of which, we're going to return to focusing on that audience by producing more of what they've been (literally) asking for: scientific answers to some of the most challenging questions they face as science-curious people. Every day, readers use our chat-bot feature to ask amazing questions of our scientists. Mostly, they want to know how they can use the information in our articles to make more informed health and safety decisions and environmentally conscious choices in their everyday lives.

It turns out that our community of researchers likes the idea of going more in-depth on how to interpret and use science in everyday life, too. In fact, when we pitched the possibility of writing more in-depth reports to them, they surprised us with their enthusiasm and exciting ideas for topics to cover. 

So, in the coming weeks, we'll be piloting a new subscriber product we're calling Massive Science Reports. Every month, we'll work with both our audience and our community of researchers to select a question and produce an in-depth report that helps subscribers make tough life choices using science. Subscribers will also have the opportunity to join our community and discuss those reports – and other scientific questions – with our researchers.

If you're a scientist interested in getting involved, join the consortium

If you're a science-curious person interested in our new Reports product, you can find out more and subscribe here.

And as always, we welcome your feedback via email, Facebook, and Twitter as we continue to share our successes and failures.