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How Can We Improve Communication in Psychology

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My sister is a neuropsychologist. Whenever we’re together, we always chat about our respective research (for me, dinosaurs), and what the latest developments in our fields are. Honestly though, half the time I have no idea what she’s talking about, and I’m sure it’s the same the other way too. That’s because, even though we are both scientists, trying to explain complicated scientific information to someone who is not a specialist in that field is incredibly difficult.

It becomes even more difficult the more specialised we become, because we become used to communicating in a certain way, with a certain language, and often to a specific audience – it’s how we are trained, after all. Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’ But honestly, how often do scientists either make or take advantage of opportunities to communicate their work in a manner that a non-specialist audience can fully understand?

It’s the same with any aspect of life though really, and not just science. Law, medicine, politics, history, engineering – these all have their own styles and languages which make it difficult for those outside of the field to understand. Making our languages more permeable to those outside of our disciplines is important if we want to open our discussions and discoveries to different publics and make them more inclusive.

This is something we understand at ScienceOpen, as a team of primarily researchers who have all experienced these issues before. For those of you who don’t know, ScienceOpen is a professional research network and platform, built upon a powerful search engine that really takes advantage of the abilities of scientific metadata and semantic web technologies. Integrated into this, we have a range of tools and features to help researchers manage their online identity, and increase the exposure and accessibility of their research, all in the open.


Collections are community spaces for researchers on ScienceOpen. They are run by collection editors, who bring together their favourite or most useful research articles on a particular topic. Editors can add editorials, article comments, and recommend and share articles from within collections with their colleagues. Any member of the global research community is invited to do likewise, injecting their expertise into a collection, to create a dynamic and collaborative resource for their colleagues.

As such, collections are a great way for researchers to communicate and engage with each other internally as a community. We have over 200 at the present, including several in psychology:

For something a little more abstract, we also have two Open Access collections on The Science of Twitter and The Science of Facebook that include some psychological research for social media fans.

But what about communicating with external audiences too? Well, we have a function for that.

Making psychological research more accessible

ScienceOpen recently introduced a feature for authors to add non-specialist summaries to their research papers. These appear on each article page, massively enhancing their visibility and accessibility, and widening the potential audience for each article.

We’ve had hundreds of these summaries added already, from small snippets of text to highlight the main features, to extensive prose discussing the importance and implications of an author’s research. But really, they can be anything an author wants, including links to previous blogposts written about their research, images and further references for reading, or whatever you want. It’s your research, so you can do with it as you please – but taking the extra step to make it more accessible is always a good thing.

We think this is really cool. Not only do non-specialists then get to peer inside papers, directly with the assistance of an author, but also then authors gain more visibility for their work too, by providing a valuable public service.

Some things you can do at ScienceOpen

  1. Register for an account today and integrate your ORCID profile
  2. Add a non-specialist summary to your research
  3. Become an editor for your own research collection
  4. Invite your colleagues to comment on or review articles in your field

Jon Tennant completed his PhD recently in Palaeontology at Imperial College London. He is now the Communications Director for ScienceOpen.

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