Where do a scientist’s best ideas take form? People would assume that great research needs to be formed in laboratories, lecture halls and conferences, but inspiration is something that can hit at any moment with the right influence. This is where podcasts come into play.

Millions of people are listening to podcasts on a regular basis at all hours of the day and night. It is a fast-growing medium that anyone can listen to or even start on their own. The average number of podcast listeners continues to grow yearly, and with it, an increasing number of companies using podcasts for advertising or to push their message to listeners. The number of podcast listeners in the US has doubled in the past 10 years and about 60% of US consumers listen to podcasts. But why should the larger science community seriously consider podcasting?

Podcasts are Just a Conversation

Science can be conveyed via podcast in the same way as any other topic. There are thousands of podcasts that are geared towards educating people about any number of topics in the physical, chemical, biological and life sciences. Many science podcasts also discuss policy and the role of socio-economics or socio-politics in influencing how science is shaped (think climate change policies or disparities in equity as a result of class, gender or race). Also, science podcasts can be highly influential in conveying scientific topics to lay people and other scientists alike (think addressing vaccine hesitancy or explaining the impacts of human activity on the environment). But instead of long-winded lectures, these podcasts are able to succinctly explain large topics in an easily digestible format that allow listeners to consume information at their own pace.

Podcasts are Easily Accessible

Scientists and experts in a number of fields will also benefit from hearing communications by other scientists in much the same way that a lay person would. What if instead of attending a conference halfway around the world (which, depending on your comfort levels as the world continues to reel from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, may not sound so appealing), you could listen to a podcast from a researcher in your field that explains their work in 15 minutes? You could then easily conduct your own research afterwards, but the seed of inspiration has been planted, all while you were sipping your morning coffee, or sitting in traffic during the afternoon commute.

Podcasts are Personal

One of the biggest, recent challenges in science communication is overcoming skepticism. Scientists challenge one another all the time in formal settings, but outside of the ivory tower, not many people truly understand what science is up to and who the people are behind the microscopes, binoculars and eye goggles. Podcasting allows for a connection between a speaker and hundreds, thousands or even millions of people especially if it is done frequently and in an entertaining manner. A scientist or professional speaking over a podcast can not only explain their research, but they can also present themselves as human beings, connecting at a deeper level with listeners and explaining motivations, fears, failures, successes and much more. 

But what about those who are working in the science industry supporting the scientists who are generating new knowledge? Can they get in on science podcasting, too?

Businesses are also deepening their use of podcasting to advertise and sell new products. Podcast listeners represent a landscape for businesses to showcase their products and services; not to mention podcast episodes themselves are great vehicles for sponsorship. Businesses who sponsor podcasts can directly discuss how amazing their companies are, or they can invite their customers (scientists themselves) to discuss how their work was facilitated thanks to products and services from the sponsor.

Science podcasting has virtually no downsides. All it takes is a voice or two to convey that message. Scientists spend large amounts of time writing, crafting PowerPoint slides and perfecting the defense of their work. So why not also perfect key messages spoken with your own voice in a medium that is accessible to anyone? More conversations means more ideas being shared, leading to that next hit of inspiration that could open doors for all kinds of wonderful new science.

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