Sebastian Husein1 Joseph Karas1 Michelle Jordan1 Mariana Bertoni1

1, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States

This talk will showcase a form of communication severely under-utilized in the scientific community –namely, podcasts. Podcasts are an audio file made digitally available on the internet, typically accessible to anyone by computer or mobile. While early forms of this communication medium have been available since the 1980s, modern podcasts have grown rapidly in popularity since 2004 [1]. Reports estimate over 44% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 has listened to a podcast, with 80% of listeners following an average of 7 podcasts per week [1]. Podcasts are therefore rapidly becoming one of the largest information dissemination methods. Scientific communities must begin engaging at the intersection of podcasting and social media networks, which have become essential in circulating information [2].
Currently, scientific research is often locked away in niche websites and academic journals, with much of the research process (i.e., development of experiments, analysis of collected data, and peer review) obscured by technical jargon and complex topics. While some scientific achievements may spread into popular culture and news, most Americans receive science news by “happenstance rather than intentionally” with only ~17% both actively and frequently seeking it out [3]. To maximize positive societal impact, the scientific community must actively pursue new forms of science communication to both inform the general public and open dialogue between researchers and those potentially impacted by the research.
Through podcasts, collection and dissemination of scientific knowledge can follow a story-telling format. Our podcast, PodQESST, hosted by two Ph.D. students, examines the research process by following the human experience. Rather than discussing complex scientific concepts, this podcast interviews graduate students and research professors about how their work evolved, from conception to process, and in some cases, to real-world implementation and influence. By using this story-telling format, research work and scientific advancements can become relatable to audiences with little to no scientific background. Additionally, communities of current graduate student are potentially strengthened through this shared experience and may impact retention rates in STEM, enhancing workforce development. The impact of this podcast on perception of science and interest in STEM careers is currently being tracked among pre-university students and university students from 8 U.S. institutions partnered through the Quantum Engineering and Sustainable Solar Technology (QESST) Engineering Research Center.
[1]: The Infinite Dial © 2017, “The podcast consumer 2018”, Edison Research and Triton Digital, 2018.
[2]: P. Luarn, J. C. Yang, Y. P. Chiu, “The network effect on information dissemination on social network sites”, Computers in Human Behavior, 37, 2014.
[3]: C. Funk, J. Gottfried, A. Mitchell, “Science News and Information Today,” Pew Research Center, 2017.