In today’s fast-paced world with its onslaught of environmental, societal and political challenges, science-related podcasts can provide an interesting, educational and even entertaining escape. Podcasts bring an interactive, personal approach and sense of intimacy to topics that might be dry when presented in written form. Plus, you can listen during your commute to the lab, library or office, while you’re exercising, cooking, or anytime you’re in headphone mode.
The growth in science podcasts provides evidence of their potential to deliver important stories to a broad audience. Podcasts are not just about stories, though. Ciencia Puerto Rico (CienciaPR) has increased the amount of culturally relevant scientific news content in Puerto Rico through essays, articles and articles distributed as podcasts, and the University of California considered podcasts as a mechanism to enhance and accelerate research. Podcasts were integral to an early proposal for an online bioinformatics curriculum and are an appropriate component to transform science communication through incorporation of rich media.
At PLOS, we’re celebrating the two-year anniversary of our own podcast, PLOScast. According to PLOScast founding host and PLOS staff researcher Elizabeth Seiver, PLOScast was established to give the organization a modern forum for thought leadership in the publishing space, but it quickly moved beyond this boundary. PLOScast engages listeners through interviews with innovators and thought leaders on the changing experiences of scientists in a digital world, the future of academia and its ongoing challenges, and scholarly publishing developments in an increasingly diverse landscape. These are serious issues, and PLOScast approaches them with integrity, diligence and humor. The show explores all things Open (access, peer review and science), including research tools; ideas for improving science communication; and exemplary, practical habits of successful scientists in all disciplines.
“PLOScast enables us to discuss issues that are important to scientists, with some of the thought leaders in their fields. It also increases the visibility of the work that the greater scientific community contributes, every day.”—Elizabeth Seiver
When PLOScast launched at the end of 2015, development involved getting the logistics and day-to-day operations straightened out. None of the team members had experience with podcasting, so they needed to learn the basics, including what kind of equipment was needed, how to edit a sound file, and how to best promote each episode. Over time, the script itself has evolved to better engage the audience and optimize the listener experience. “I try to keep the listener in mind more now,” says Seiver. “I think at the beginning I was more focused on having the conversation itself, but now I try to have a running voice in the back of my mind thinking about the listener, asking ‘will other people understand this reference? Is this what other people want to know about this topic?’”
Scientists and those interested in academics are certainly listening—PLOScast has over 16,000 plays in the past two years. With its reputation growing, plans are to diversify beyond the traditional one-on-one interview format and to expand its voice to provide early career researchers (ECRs) an opportunity to participate. The manager of PLOS’ ECR Community, Sara Kassabian, recently joined the PLOScast hosting team (yes, two people make a team), contributing an interview with preprint maven Jessica Polka for her inaugural episode. In “How ECRs like Jessica Polka are reinventing science publishing,” Polka goes beyond the topic of preprints to discuss opportunities for ECRs in #scicomm and the role of twitter in creating positive change in #science.
The top 10 most popular episodes by number of plays cover issues ranging from altmetrics and their history (episode 14) to big data in the social sciences (episode 23) and how to work with public information officers to increase the visibility of your science (episode 8). The top 10 (including number of plays as of October 31, 2017) in order are:
- Episode 8: How to Communicate Science: An interview featuring Matt Shipman (969 plays)
- Episode 2: The Postdoc Crisis featuring Liz Silva (856)
- Episode 9: The History of Scientific Publishing: An interview featuring Aileen Fyfe (769)
- Episode 3: Managing Scientific Data featuring Tracy Teal (738)
- Episode 1 Part 1: Open Peer Review and Scientific Communities (706)
- Episode 17 Part 1: The Science of Science featuring Eamon Duede (694)
- Episode 23: Big Data in the Social Sciences: An interview featuring Ian Mulvany (668)
- Episode 14: Understanding Altmetrics with Stacy Konkiel (636)
- Episode 22: Building Taxonomies: An interview featuring Bob Kasenchak (598)
- Episode 20: Science Communication and Critique: An interview featuring Hilda Bastian (598)
Interestingly, PLOScast launched with a broad ranging discussion on collaboration and publications with Cameron Neylon, formerly PLOS’ Advocacy Director. Part of this conversation covered bioRxiv, prior to that preprint server’s current phase of rapid growth. The second year began with an interview with James Fraser from UCSF on preprints and their ability to help authors stake a claim on ideas, methods or results. The interview with Polka marks the beginning of year three for PLOScast; as with the rest of the scientific community, preprints are an increasingly central part of PLOS’ conversation on how to move science communication forward.
To mark this achievement milestone for PLOScast, we have a new icon that’s fun and quirky yet at its core remains PLOS. We leave listeners around the globe with the top five favorites of the PLOScast crew:
- Episode 8: How to Communicate Science: An interview featuring Matt Shipman
- Episode 9: The History of Scientific Publishing: An interview featuring Aileen Fyfe
- Episode 23: Big Data in the Social Sciences: An interview featuring Ian Mulvany
- Episode 2: The Postdoc Crisis featuring Liz Silva
- Episode 3: Managing Scientific Data featuring Tracy Teal