PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Research institutions and social media
Channels for engaging the public and scientists

Ines Domingues  

Over the last few years, social media have been progressively introduced in many institutions as a PR strategy to reach different audiences, particularly in Western countries. For scientific institutions, such as universities or research centres, social networks provide a fast and simple way to reach different publics to share scientific results, to inform about news, events or job positions and for a variety of other purposes.

Facebook (FB) pages are among the social media platforms most widely adopted by scientific institutions as part of their outreach programmes. An institutional FB page may follow different communication strategies. For instance, it can be used to increase the institution's visibility in society, as a tool for internal communication, or to engage citizens in science. Here, we will present the FB page of Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC) as a case study and will discuss how to go from a PR strategy to an engaging science communication project. IGC is a life sciences' research institute, based in Oeiras, Portugal. In 2009, the IGC launched a FB page, aiming to communicate the science being developed at the institute and to boost the visibility of in-house scientists. In the mean time IGC's FB page has reached more than 28 000 organic followers.

Different strategies have been implemented in the past 3 years in order to reach and engage general public in science, both nationally and internationally, and to involve scientists in the digital science communication programme. To better understand the interests and expectations of all our followers we have recently conducted online surveys. Our results showed that the heterogeneous public that follows IGC is mostly interested in more interactive approaches to science communication covering a wider range of different scientific fields.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.