Secure Research Funding With Visuals

Among the many challenges scientists face today, a major headache is securing funding. Generally, scientists receive funding based on how much attention their research is estimated to generate. The more popular the topic, the more likely it is to receive funding. For instance, research on cancer gene BRCA2 is more likely to gain traction than frog copulation processes... for now. Fishing in a smaller pool of money means that scientists need a competitive edge to get a bite.

Fear not! There are ways to increase attention and discussion of the research for popular and nonpopular topics alike. Infographics and interactive data allow researchers to communicate more effectively and engage readers in a refreshing way. Content with visuals get 94% more total views and is 40x more likely to get shared on social media (Lee). Thus, visualized data can be the path to funding. 
Cue Vip Sitaraman. The founder of PubDraw, an open access, graphical science publishing platform, breaks down for us why infographics are the future of funding:

What's the science behind why people love infographics? 

There's overwhelming evidence that infographics are extremely effective at catching people's attention, and that sticking ability isn't going away. In fact, 3M conducted a study that found visuals are processed in the brain over 60,000 times faster than text.

The brain craves infographics because we suffer from information overload: the average attention span has dropped to 8 seconds since 1980 and people only read 28% of what they see.  Our eyes are neurally networked to take in a visual scene in under 1 second while it takes 250 seconds to recognize, then assign meaning to symbols (think of each word in a sentence as a symbol). This explains why 80% of people are more willing to read an infographic--and they learn and retain information 32% better as a result too.

Why should scientists care?

It's become clear that writing papers and getting grants won't cut it in academia anymore.  Many tenure-track professors, especially those non-applied sciences, argue that layperson outreach and science communication are superfluous extensions of "cold, hard science" (see Reddit thread). To such skeptics, let me point out a correlation, and to that, attach a hypothesis:

Correlation: Funding for science is dropping along with public perception of scientists.
Hypothesis: The above is not merely correlation; rather, causation.

What can scientists do?

Infographics are a great way to attract a larger audience, both laypeople and scientists alike. When proposed research is anticipated to speak to the general public, policymakers provide more funding for science. The cycle of science below explains why climate change researchers recently saw a cut in their funding, with low layperson education on climate change:

  1. Policymakers create grants for science ->
  2. Scientists conduct and publish research using grants ->
  3. This research molds public opinion on science ->
  4. Public opinion influences policy makers.
While the public outreach is more important to scientists in fields like environmental science and public health, the benefits for other career-track scientists are undeniable. For example, researchers that have created infographics such as visuals of paper abstracts with PubDraw have seen over an average of 1.6 more citations and 10X more social engagement.

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