We highlight science communications and public relations that contribute significantly to the public discourse about science and evidence. The nominees that were in the running for this year’s Science Communication Award, truly are science communication projects we love. Have a look at these inspiring examples!
The Microbe of the Year has been selected since 2014 by the VAAM and has attracted broad attention since then. The project was initiated by Harald Engelhardt who convinced the VAAM (Vereinigung für Allgemeine und Angewandte Mikrobiologie, Association for General and Applied Microbiology) of his idea to spread the word on microbes and their positive features. The chosen microbe is launched by an intensive press campaign, which reaches out to a wide audience while putting an emphasis on the importance of microbes in everyday life. The positive effect is seen in many publications from local and national newspapers to specialized journals in many fields (medicine, technology, ecology, gardening, etc). Many broadcasts on regional and national stations have been featuring the Microbe of the Year, its effects on ecology, the economy and health, as well as some of the lab projects focusing on that field. The website is expanded every year with short texts, royalty-free downloadable pictures, further links, and literature.
The science communication website Microbiologia Italia was born on the 15th of October 2014 from the passion for the thousand shades of microbiology. In 2019, Microbiologia Italia became a non-profit cultural organization. Today, it comprehends an asset of more than 50 volunteer expert Italian editors worldwide – Italy, Spain, and The Netherlands. The website covers a different area of interest – virology, immunology, parasitology, mycology, and immunology – constantly expanded to attract the curiosity of Microbiologia Italia’s large community. To date, the website boasts 150,000 monthly visits and 16000 keywords placed on Google. Microbiologia Italia publishes two or more articles daily, alternating between technical, in-depth articles and teaching cards.
Cláudia Godinho won the 2021 Science Communication Award as contributor to International Microorganism Day (IMD). IMD was launched in 2017 by the Portuguese Society of Microbiology (SPM). Although IMD was started as a national commemoration in Portugal, the devotion of everyone involved and the unsurpassable importance of the topic led to the growth of the day up to the point it is today, a fully international and relevant commemoration. The aim of IMD is to disseminate and promote Microbiology as a vast area of professional activity and career and raise awareness among young people and society in general for the essential role that an invisible multitude of very different organisms plays in daily life, as well as on its potential as efficient and versatile cellular factories in Biotechnology.
The Bad Bugs Bookclub website is a freely available resource that provides reading guides/suggested questions for more than 70 books, alongside discussion notes for each meeting. Jo Verran set up the bookclub in 2009. The aim was – and remains – to bring scientists and non-scientists together to discuss novels where microbiology forms part of the plot. It is common for science advocates to blame fiction for negative public attitudes to science, or for the public’s ‘ignorance’ about scientific facts, but the bookclub format enables democratic engagement between (interested) adults, and the presence of ‘experts’, in a relaxed setting. The format also enables exploration of controversial issues, or misunderstandings, in an informal manner. It has provided a fantastic and versatile focus for engaging adult (and other) audiences in discussion.
Ekoli is an NGO founded to give every child the opportunity to experiment, create and explore with science (#science4everyone). In Corona times, Ekoli@home gave young people the opportunity to experiment creatively with science at home. Ekoli@home consists of videos shared via social media, with fun experiments and provided with a short explanation of the science behind it. All videos are uploaded both in English and Dutch:
The Spanish spoken video In Forma Virale aims to raise public awareness of the importance of vaccination. The video was produced in 2018 by Scienced medical communication (Founder, Simona Maria Purrello) in collaboration with SullaLuna srl, and thanks to the patronage of the Italian Society of Microbiology (SIM).
Projects OralBioBorn and PERIMYR Blog provide an opportunity to educate in microbiology and cardiovascular health during pregnancy and post-partum. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to the subsequent access restrictions to the recruitment sites, the enrollment of new potential participants suffered several constraints and delays. Therefore, there was an evident need for the launching of a webpage to facilitate enrollment in the studies. The campaigns aim to communicate science and motivate the population to participate in the scientific process, and therefore share and raise awareness towards human microbiology, cardiovascular health and their close relationship.
MicroBites aims to popularize microbiology research with a wide audience. We are part of ScienceBites, a website that encompasses several science websites. The bites sites provide research articles in easy to read/bite-sized articles. ScienceBites creates a community of graduate students in different fields to make science accessible to all. MicroBites, therefore, focuses on microbiology research that is summarized into digestible articles aimed at all from undergraduates to non-scientists.
Noémie Matthey and Sarah Wettstadt have been writing and publishing the science blog BacterialWorld for over 2 years now. On the blog, they are explaining bacterial concepts or recent research findings with engaging stories aimed at everyone who is interested in learning about microbes and specifically bacteria. While Sarah, as a science writer and communicator, is responsible for writing and publishing the posts, Noémie complements each post with a vivid and colourful comic. These comics aim to explain the posts written by Sarah on a visual level and make the posts more engaging. Thanks to Noémie’s illustrations, the BacterialWorld blog gained a lot more followers on social media and people started asking for more.
Stefano Bertacchi is the author of the book Piccoli Geni: Alla scoperta dei microrganismi, initiated several science communication projects, among them the MOOC Weschool (MOOC for high-school students). His book is described as ‘A fantastic journey into the microcosm, exploring the extraordinary microbial biodiversity of bacteria, yeasts and molds, whose scientific names, sometimes bizarre and unpronounceable, hide incredible characteristics.’