External Diffusion (www.externaldiffusion.com) is a web hub specifically built to help authors of scientific publications spread the word about their hard work to a targeted audience, thereby increasing their impact.
Got your scientific publication finally published?! And now? Do you think you are finished? Did you know the average scientific paper is only read by max 10 people? (read article: Citations are not enough: Academic promotion panels must take into account a scholar’s presence in popular media). That doesn’t seem a lot, especially for all the countless adaptations and the extra hours you have spent to finally finish the paper! You would expect to receive more recognition of the hard work you have been doing, but how to get this recognition? How to improve the outreach of your scientific paper, your profile, your lab? Scientific outreach platforms like External Diffusion can give you this recognition! External Diffusion is a hub specifically built to help authors of scientific publications spread the word about their hard work to a targeted audience, thereby increasing their impact. Pieter Torrez from Crastina and Scigrades had a talk with one of the founders Prof. Dr. Damien Debecker from the University of Louvain-La-Neuve (Belgium).
1.Hi Damien! Could you describe External Diffusion?
External Diffusion is a web hub specifically built to help scientists spread the word about their publications. It is a blog, where researchers can create a page with a professional layout, to try and reach a larger audience, beyond the classical reach of a scientific paper. It is possible to fine-tune the level of their communication so as to reach different kind of targeted readers: the general public, multidisciplinary scientists, experts, etc.
The service allows you to include interactive media such as images, video, animated infographics, etc. Once the researcher has published a scientific paper, External Diffusion is a great place to share additional, alternative contents, such as a more informal abstract of the research, a bio of the author, or the highly appreciated “story behind the paper”.
Importantly, the website is fully wired for social. The External Diffusion team does a very proactive work of social media outreach. Twitter is our main channel but we are also very active on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+. Our audience is highly scientific, with mainly “researchers 2.0”, eager to read and share science online. This means that once your post is live on External Diffusion, it is going to be heavily shared and discussed online on all relevant social media platforms.
2. Why should scientists use this platform to improve the outreach of their research?
In the frenzy of today’s publishing world, getting your paper out there should not be seen as the endpoint. Over a million papers are published every year. Especially for early career scientists, it is important to try and stand out from the crowd.
Also, being restricted to the canvas of a scientific publication may be frustrating. With External Diffusion, you can communicate in an alternative format and via alternative channels.
Your External Diffusion post can trigger an online discussion about your results. The page can be used to show your work to your tenure track evaluation committee or to ask your communication department to cover your work in their next press outreach. As a PI, you might find it useful to show prospective PhD students how your research is hype.
3. How are you going to keep the platform structured when the number of blogposts starts growing exponentially?
Posts will still be posted chronologically on our main “contribution” page, whatever their science topic. However, they are all labelled with keywords, so the reader can easily browse among the posts, selecting a scientific field, a country, an author or an institution.
In our social media feeds, posts covering all kinds of scientific work follow each other’s. However, they are always tagged with keywords. Usually, the specific community takes over and shares the post in their groups and channels. So the post on ecotoxicology for example ends up being discussed in very different feeds as the one about social policies.
4. Can you give 3 pieces of advice to scientists who want to use the services of External Diffusion?
- Select the paper you are the most proud of; the one that you want people to remember you for. Do spend some time on the preparation of the contents. They will be highly viewed, so triple check.
- Use most (all?) of the proposed subsections for your External Diffusion post. The scientific part is important, but it is not all. People like to read how a scientific result was born, and you can tell this story in your post. Be specific and rigorous, but if possible, not too formal. Take the time to prepare eye-catching illustrations or to prepare a video. Professional scientific illustrators can help. Remember that video is recognized as the most engaging form of communication in social media.
- Hurry up! We are getting a lot of attention and a lot of requests. Being featured on External Diffusion may not remain entirely free of charge in the near future.
5. What are the future plans of External Diffusion?
Our first move was to launch the service and see if there is a demand for what we offer. The answer is a resounding yes! Our audience is growing rapidly, and our site visits too. Author requests are pouring at an accelerated pace.
We intend to keep the website highly relevant, with exciting content. Our goal has never been to gather the above-mentioned million annual papers! Plus we want to keep a lean approach for now by making sure we keep our spending as low as possible. But at the same time, we have to get some kind of compensation for the hard work we do. So we may progressively swift towards a model where posts will be published upon invitation or with a small charge paid by the author or their institution. Alternatively, we may find support from institutions or from commercial partners who want to benefit from the communication channels of External Diffusion. We are still very much open to suggestions in that regards, so if you have any ideas send them through!
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