Sunday, 20 April 2014

Editor's Note #19: An indication of the level of interest in MERS?

I know this is just a little blog and one tat is pretty nichey, but if it's visitor numbers are any guide, interest in the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is at a fever pitch. This past week (13th-19th of April-2014) was the biggest week, in terms of site visits and views, for Virology Down Under, since the VDU blog came into being.
Countries from which visits to VDU have originated
between 30-Mar and 19-Apr 2014. USA 1st. 2nd most
visiting country; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Thanks to @AB_Algaissi for asking.

13 of the 18 posts in the past week were MERS-CoV themed and each drew between 80 and 652 views. Yesterday most of those users were new visitors. So why don't you come back??? Oh well, I'll keep a light on ;)

The light is slowly dawning among researchers, that the many messages of science can be so much better conveyed through social media platforms than through scientific papers. And the public seem to be enjoying this slow moving change.

Apart from being stodgily written or sometimes incoherent, even to other scientists, such papers can be placed behind a paywall which cannot be accessed unless you have links to a University. Scientific papers are also frequently slow to emerge (reviewing and copy-editing and layout and such can take weeks, depending on the journal) and are aimed towards only a very select few; at least unless you have results that make it into a luxury journal like Science or Nature. The sloth like turnaround time is in start contrast to the emergence of an infectious disease outbreak and so the public, and many professional too,  must look elsewhere if they want to know the facts behind the latest "Killer virus mutates" media banner. Many big organisations have resources and professionals devoted to providing those answers; sometimes they are hard to wade through too, sometimes not.

If our research findings are good enough to be if interest to the scientific media, we may get a much wider pickup for our message. The trick then is being able to convey that message in understandable chunks. Ever been to a accountant/lawyer/banker/statistician? Then you know that half of what they say slips into their own tech-terminology. Yeah, we  scientists do that a lot too. Its a hard habit to break out of. We just get used to using that language in our day-to-day dealings even though it may confound (see?) others. But don't put up with convoluted tech-speak; ask for clarification. 

Realistically though, most submissions to luxury journals get rejected. Unfortunately, media attention can often be drawn to work appearing in those luxury journals rather than some journal with a lower impact factor. Yes, impact factors still get used in the real world at many levels from grant review panels to fellowship panels to contract renewals to attracting media attention. Why? Because your work has been deemed by some to be interesting and important enough to get there in the first place. 

And so the circle of scientific life goes on.

Thanks to all who read and visit. I hope its been worth your average 1min 29sec visit. ;)