Science has been front-page news throughout the pandemic. As a consequence, the role of science and research has become increasingly understood. In the recent Edelman trust survey of 33,000 people in 28 countries, there was a huge statistical jump (a net increase of 43 points) in those who said they wanted to ‘increase their science literacy’. At Springer Nature, we have a big role to play here.
Already, our army of expert science journalists and bloggers around the world reach millions every month. Nature.com saw a 39% increase in usage this year and now has seven million visitors monthly and three million followers on Twitter. Nature published 550 news and opinion articles on COVID-19 alone which have been viewed 57 million times and mentioned one million times on other channels. Scientific American, with its mission to bring the most important and exciting research, ideas and knowledge to the general public, has a Twitter following of four million and welcomes five and half million visitors each month to its website. Our in-house press team works with specialist science journalists and news reporters every day to share the latest research in a digestible fashion and help them to explain these discoveries accurately to their readers generating nearly 100,000 new stories so far this year. And finally, 1.4 million people have now signed up for the Nature Briefing which provides a daily digest of the important science that is making the news. On that note, if you haven’t already done so, I’d highly recommend you sign up here.
We also try to recognise and celebrate science communications done well. Our Science in Shorts competition - in partnership with Merck - encourages scientists to enhance the accessibility of their research through short, creative videos that highlight the importance of their work. Our support for the John Maddox Prize, over the past ten years, recognises researchers who have shown great courage and integrity in standing up for science and scientific reasoning against fierce opposition and hostility. Increasingly important as we battle a growing tide of misinformation in a world where scientists are thrust into the spotlight.
And we look for new ways to communicate the science behind the UN’s SDGS. During COP 26 we curated a special microsite, Climate Research in Action to help policymakers quickly find the latest climate research and made it easily accessible via a QR code on the Climate Train, that took delegates and activists from Europe to the Glasgow conference.
But is there more than we can do to serve this heightened desire for more digestible, yet accurate, science?
This was the challenge we set ourselves recently by looking for stories that could inspire and inform about the world of science and research. The result is a new video series called Story Source. We asked colleagues across Springer Nature to tell us about moments that made them proud, when the power of science and research to improve the world was brought into sharp relief. We then worked up a series of short, animated, accessible videos. Our first story, which was suggested by colleague Karen Cheng, is about the work of BMC and Professor Xiao-Nong Zhou to eliminate the diseases of poverty. It’s a great capture of the passion and drive of researchers to make positive change.
The other series that we’re launching is In Conversation. This was inspired by Editor-in-Chief of Nature Magdalena Skipper who, a few months back, spoke at a UN summit urging policymakers to recognise the important role that science can play in tackling global challenges. We wanted to keep the conversation going and so have created a series that brings together two guests to discuss a topical issue, to shine a light on new thinking and new ideas and provide fresh perspectives on common themes. The strapline is ‘One Topic. Two guests. Boundless Perspective’ as we strongly believe that solving society's big challenges requires teamwork, cross disciplinary thinking and openness to views that challenge the way we think. In conversation launches with Sir Phil Campbell, Editor in Chief of Springer Nature, talking to Professor Heidi Larson, an expert in what drives vaccine confidence, who last week was named one of the BBC’s Top 100 Influential Women of 2021. As part of their conversation, Phil and Heidi discuss the contentious subject of vaccine mandates. It couldn’t be more topical.
There will be more Story Source videos and In Conversation episodes to come in 2022. We hope that they are enjoyed and most importantly shared amongst those who put their hand up to learn more about science. As Magdalena says, it’s in all our interests to listen to science and to researchers as we grapple with challenges far bigger than ourselves.