Publication update 16: Do conservation scientists need to work harder to get their research noticed?

Hey folks, remember this publication update?

Does Social Media 'Like' Conservation?

In that article, we talked about how we shared a facebook post that featured a turtle being abused, reached around 63,000 people within a few hours of its posting. The moral of the story was that sensational news such as those on animal abuse appeared to garner more attention from the public than news on conservation issues.

That article was led by one of Rimba’s researchers, Lahiru Wijedasa. But that wasn’t the last word…

Lahiru and other colleagues wanted to look at what kinds of news get into online media. Lahiru  linked up with a group of scientists, headed by Roman Carrasco, from the National University of Singapore. 

What they found was:

– Only a paltry 5% of articles in conservation journals are reported in online news.

What journal the study is published in has the greatest impact on which conservation research is featured, but news sites have the greatest impact on how popular an online article will be on Facebook and Twitter.

– Online news articles on climate change and charismatic  mammals with illustrations seemed to be more likely to be featured in the news and shared or liked on Facebook and Twitter.

Research by Lahiru & Co. showed that studies on charasmatic animals like tigers are more likely to get into the headlines!

The take-home message is that online technologies such as Twitter and Facebook offer new, but limited opportunities to accelerate communication between conservation scientists and the online public. The paper also suggests that conservation scientists need to do better to engage the general public to raise awareness on conservation issues. But is this really possible when the public is choosy about what issues they are interested in, as our Scientist article pointed out?

Just when you thought conservation scientists have their work already cut out for them!

Here’s a link to the abstract of the paper, and you can email Lahiru for a pdf:

Papworth, S.K., Nghiem, T.P.L., Chimalakonda, D., Posa, M.R.C., Wijedasa, L.S., Bickford, D. and Carrasco, L.R. (2015), Quantifying the role of online news in linking conservation research to Facebook and Twitter. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12455

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3 thoughts on “Publication update 16: Do conservation scientists need to work harder to get their research noticed?

  1. Thanks a lot for the comments, input, and suggestions – we really appreciate it! We certainly need more inter-disciplinary efforts in conservation, for sure!

  2. I have read the article.
    As a person who working on views and thought about wildlife, this is a good article.
    Worth for citation.

    You may be interested to look into Norm Activation Theory by Schwartz and have a little bit understanding on general theory of emotion by Maarten Jacobs. NAT can explain the likelihood that norms that can influence behaviour by activating their awareness of consequences and ascription of responsibility. In this case it is more likely to explain social norms influencing readers preferences.
    General emotion theory explained 6 mechanism that can influence human liking-disliking animal. Our mental disposition have general preference to like categories of animal (fear-relevant;disgust relevant;fear-irrelevant) depending on these mechanism. Although the categories might be vary among societies, it is an interesting point to explain its association with charismatic animal.
    I believe this paper is a concrete message to scientist to engage with colleague from different discipline (environmental – social scientist).
    Just my two cents.

  3. This is an interesting post and research article, especially as I am focused on communications for tiger conservation. You are right that most conservation scientists are not trained or tuned into what the general public wants. The fact that creative headlines and iconic animals, such as tigers, can get attention on Twitter and Facebook is not necessarily a bad thing, provided it is backed up by promoting wider awareness about deforestation and poaching. This is now happening in western media ( e.g. BBC website highlights wildlife crime and news on a regular basis) and NGOs such as UnitedforWildlife, WildAid and WWF are doing quite a good job. In Asia, the media and the general public are not as open to such news items, but with time, this can evolve, especially since the appeal of FB and Twitter is global. Conservation scientists need to realise that you need to use the right communication tools and media to create awareness, and a lenghty research article with lots of scientific jargon is never going to reach a huge audience. However, a catchy Tweet with a link for those who want to learn more may well create more awareness.As I keep on reminding my friends in field conservation, saving species in the 21st Century is all about people management and not species management. I hope this will soon be part of conservationists training globally.’Keep up the good work!

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