Maybe you were at the meeting and didn't realize what you were missing. Maybe you weren't at the meeting, but have a part of your operation focused on corporate, university, government or nonprofit research--and need to reach public audiences with news of your findings and progress. Either way, you should know about these additional sources of information on who's consuming news about science in the digital world, and where they're finding it:
- The big missing piece was the National Science Foundation's Science & Engineering Indicators 2010, chapter 7, particularly the section on where Americans get their science news, an essential part of this discussion. The Indicators are issued every two years, and include well-cited comparable data, making this a must-read on the topic. (If you were at the plenary, this summary includes links to all the Pew data noted from previous years in that talk.) Because these data have been collected for many decades, we can watch trends and see changes emerging; if they're not in your toolkit, they should be.
- There's more recent Pew data: Much of the out-of-date data came from Pew's stash, but there are more relevant and more recent data there, such as this February 2011 data on accessing health information on the Internet, as well as Susannah Fox's 2010 report on mobile health information, and this useful 2009 data on how the public and scientists view one another, a collaborative research project between Pew and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- There's even state data: Research!America issued a statewide poll from Maryland in May 2011 on science and journalism, with findings that mirror the national NSF data, reporting that most Marylanders get their news from television, then the Internet. Respondents said they're consuming more news about science, and want to see even more of it, and while many can't name a living scientist, they certainly can name living journalists. (Hmm.)
- Citizens are getting their science news in nontraditional formats or straight from the news source--and have been for some time: Eurekalert!, the online science news service run by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for many years, is known to science writers and public information officers for the services it offers them behind a secure firewall. But because all releases on the site are publicly available once their embargoes are up, the site is another indicator of public interest in science news. The site gets "over 2 million visits per month from nearly 1 million unique visitors. This is mostly public traffic, but includes registered users as well," says Jennifer Santisi, Eurekalert! senior communications officer. And Futurity, which publishes research news releases from a consortium of universities, reports that it's had 2.4 million unique visits and 4 million page views, averaging about 130,000 visits per month, since its launch in September 2009. Both sites also publish RSS feeds and promote their releases on social media sites. I'd love to see similar data for the National Science Foundation's Science360 radio podcasts, among others.
- Other sources are publishing directly and getting public users: Just one of many examples can be found at NASA in this summary of its social media outreach efforts: "NASA’s primary Twitter account @NASA is nearing 1 million followers, and we have more than 200 social media accounts Agencywide." I'd love to see someone summarize the readership and engagement of public audiences with government research news, university research news and public science outreach efforts by nonprofts to round out that picture.
- Sharing as an indicator: A newer gauge of public engagement and interest lies in users who share science news. For example, one study showed that one-third of the New York Times science stories make its "most emailed" list.
- Users are doing more than consuming science news, and are putting information to direct use, as this Scientific American report on citizen scientists and social media describes. Two more options: Using virtual worlds like Second Life to encourage citizen action in science and encouraging citizens to take data sets and analyze them. Not news, per se, but still an exchange of information that's leading to direct engagement with science.
- Mobile, too: It was strongly suggested at this keynote that science communicators get going in mobile apps. If only the speaker had known about the scores of examples of science mobile apps out there, for both scientists and citizens, issued by news organizations and research organizations. The field now includes research specifically on apps and gamers, as in this trove of health games research. You'll find useful a wiki of science mobile apps, and useful roundups from groups like the National Wildlife Federation's 25+ nature and wildlife-focused mobile apps, and this directory of higher education mobile apps. And that doesn't even begin to tackle the many health, diet and fitness apps available.
KPCB Internet Trends (2011)
(Thanks to Tiffany Lohwater, Ginger Pinholster, Jennifer Santisi from AAAS; Karl Leif Bates from Duke: Jenny Leonard of Futurity; and Joe Bonner from Rockefeller University for sharing thoughts and pointers to get this post started. Please do add links and sources for more on digital consumers of science news in the comments.)