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The future of knowledge communication is here.

I’ve seen the future (of communicating research-based knowledge).

Here: So can you.

COVID-Explained is a brand new site written by scientists, researchers, and students to answer major questions about COVID-19 with simplicity, succinctness, and sound science. (It’s not to be confused with the older site COVID Explained, which has a better URL but isn’t nearly as good.)

Here’s why COVID-Explained is so good:

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Does Science Twitter need blogging in a pandemic? Why Cal Newport is both right and wrong.

Normally I would be all over this new Cal Newport piece in WIRED about how Expert Twitter could be so much more helpful about the pandemic if only it were supplemented by blogging.

In the new piece, Newport (author of the bestseller “Deep Work” and high priest of social media renunciation) begrudgingly admits that Twitter has introduced us to all sorts of crucial expert voices and angles — such virologist Trevor Bedford of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute. But Twitter, Newport complains, is lousy at “complex discussions or nuanced analyses,” isn’t easily searchable, can’t be edited and (outside of…

But your eyesight as a researcher is 20/20

I’ll double down on something I wrote last week: Don’t predict, describe.

Especially: Describe trends and tell us where/what they will lead to.

Right now, expert predictions are, at best, thought exercises that verge on entertainment. At worst, they’re horoscopes: almost always wrong, almost always without accountability, almost always hiding one or more key and very debatable assumptions. Like a horoscope or procrastination, they mainly serve to kick the can of our own anxiety and agency down the road for a moment. Then we go looking for the next prediction.

(I joined a webinar about three weeks ago on the…

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Communicating your research-based expertise in the teeth of COVID-19.

Here’s a condensed version of what I’m telling all my clients — all researchers who run their own teams and organizations, large and small — right now:

There is only one story for the foreseeable future.

If you can’t be hyper-relevant to it, hold off on almost all your communications for now.

This is not a time to grow new audiences. If that happens, let it be a by-product of sharing your insights broadly, not a goal.

This is a time to consolidate your closest communities — to gather them and be of service to them in doing so.


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Why science is losing the argument about COVID-19

Politico reports this morning that Morgan Stanley economists are now predicting a 30.1% annualized decline in US GDP for Q2 — which would be the worst quarterly performance in 74 years. That’s the good news. The bad news: lots of other economists think that prediction might be optimistic. The really bad news: those in power in the United States seem ready to risk the full wrath of a pandemic instead of the economic depression fighting that pandemic might bring on (even though their actions might well give us both).

The U.S. chapter of the COVID-19 crisis was always at some…

From Siobhan Roberts, “You Can Help Break the Chain of Transmission,” New York Times, March 19, 2020

We’re going to need a more human (and sci-fi) metaphor to win this thing.

Humanity is conducting some gigantic experiments right now — and the biggest might be in how we’re communicating the science of this virus and how to stop it. #Flattenthecurve is the meme, the brand, the call-to-action rolled into one. The universal visual (CDC version, as published in WIRED):

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Stay calm and keep science-based during COVID-19.

It’s a boom time — thank God — for explanatory, research-based and research-expertise content about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. Here are 12 informational resources from the last week that I’ve found especially clarifying:

3Blue1Brown: “Exponential Growth and Epidemics” (YouTube): Send this nine-minute explainer video to all the virus-complacent in your life; it patiently walks through why COVID-19’s threat is about its exponential growth path, not the small-seeming number of cases being reported today in your city, state or country. The numbers you’re hearing are the tip of the iceberg. Stop thinking linearly; start thinking exponentially.

Tomas Pueyo: “Coronavirus: Why…

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For COVID-19, your rationalist riskholery might actually be riskier

Too many authorities — mostly business pundits and journalists, but also some scientists, economists, psychologists and even doctors — continue to tell the rest of us we’re misreading the risks of COVID-19 and are overreacting to it in a fit of panic.

You may be one of those authorities.

Cut it out.

This isn’t a time for riskholes, my ungentle term for people who cast themselves as clear-eyed rationalists and everyone else as reactive slaves to their emotions and biases. (There really isn’t a time for riskholery, ever. But especially not now.)

Here’s riskholery distilled:

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It’s kind of like changing your face or name.

Most of us think of points-of-view as things we assume and then invite other people to share.

That’s limiting at best. POVs only have meaning and value as social agreements, as an important defining term in a relationship with someone else. “I am standing here” is just an echoing shout in an empty canyon unless others understand precisely where you stand and where you’re coming from.

Not a stance; a standpoint.

So when you change your POV, you’re not simply adopting a new opinion. You’re requesting that others change their relationship with you, and come to understand you in a…

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Sadly, knowing=doing

A member of my email list writes:

This morning while working on a proposal with some super collaborators I found myself thinking that my writing skills could use some work. I know they always can, for everyone, but then I wondered:

How can I assess my writing skills to highlight current strengths and weaknesses without going back to college? Both for super technical (e.g., peer reviewed papers and proposals) and for more lay type audiences. Are there services, tools, tutorials, etc. for this purpose?

Once assessed, are there specific tutorials, books or other tools that would help me to address…

Bob Lalasz

Founder & CEO, Science+Story. Guiding research-driven organizations to become thought leaders.

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