Catching the public's attention is a major challenge in the information society. What good are elaborate websites, blogs and podcasts if the public is unaware of their existence? All other areas of society have access to the same tools. So how do we compete with them for the public's attention?

The success of some research projects using high definition photography both as a scientific tool and for communication has changed the way we promote our work to the general public. Photographs have become an important part of the message, quite frequently the door opener to the message, and sometimes even its reason to be. No news is published on our website without a photograph and much effort is put into illustrations in printed documents. A particularly spectacular picture may also be the opportunity to introduce to the media a subject that is of no direct current interest – the image itself is the news. Vital to this principle, however, is the origin of the image: The photograph must be taken by our staff. Thus, the images document our involvement in the research.

Showing a direct link between the use of an image and the success of the communication is difficult. In some cases, however, one does get indications. In 2007, the index pages of our annual report on marine ecosystems were livened up with thumbnail images from selected chapters. The top five stories reported in the press after the launch all turned out to be among the topics highlighted by a photograph. Filming the beauty of cold‐water coral reefs and the devastating effects of bottom trawling became an important tool for achieving the establishment of Norway's first marine protected areas. Photographic documentation was used to put pressure on the authorities and influence their management of the marine environment.

The benefits of using images have lead the PR department to invest in the harvesting and handling of photographs rather than in advanced online communication tools. Our aim is to make scientists, technicians and crew members partners in our collection of treasures from the sea – on camera. In this digital age, the main challenge will be to make sure quality prevails over quantity.

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PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Look!

Yvonne Robberstad   Institute of Marine Research, Communications and Public Relations

Catching the public's attention is a major challenge in the information society. What good are elaborate websites, blogs and podcasts if the public is unaware of their existence? All other areas of society have access to the same tools. So how do we compete with them for the public's attention?

The success of some research projects using high definition photography both as a scientific tool and for communication has changed the way we promote our work to the general public. Photographs have become an important part of the message, quite frequently the door opener to the message, and sometimes even its reason to be. No news is published on our website without a photograph and much effort is put into illustrations in printed documents. A particularly spectacular picture may also be the opportunity to introduce to the media a subject that is of no direct current interest – the image itself is the news. Vital to this principle, however, is the origin of the image: The photograph must be taken by our staff. Thus, the images document our involvement in the research.

Showing a direct link between the use of an image and the success of the communication is difficult. In some cases, however, one does get indications. In 2007, the index pages of our annual report on marine ecosystems were livened up with thumbnail images from selected chapters. The top five stories reported in the press after the launch all turned out to be among the topics highlighted by a photograph. Filming the beauty of cold‐water coral reefs and the devastating effects of bottom trawling became an important tool for achieving the establishment of Norway's first marine protected areas. Photographic documentation was used to put pressure on the authorities and influence their management of the marine environment.

The benefits of using images have lead the PR department to invest in the harvesting and handling of photographs rather than in advanced online communication tools. Our aim is to make scientists, technicians and crew members partners in our collection of treasures from the sea – on camera. In this digital age, the main challenge will be to make sure quality prevails over quantity.

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

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