Thursday, March 29, 2012

800,000 Reasons to Market Your Science

800,000  That's the number of manuscripts in science and engineering published each year.  If you read a paper a day, a noble goal, you could read 0.05% of the published papers.  Imagine if you are a primary care doc who had to keep up in multiple clinical areas or worse yet, a science journalist.  How could you manage?

JournalWatch from
Now let's turn that around.  Let's say you're a scientist who has important data you want to share.  How can you make your one very very important manuscript stand out among the 800,000? Your magnum opus represents a mere 0.000125% of all papers published in the last 365 days.  To make you feel better, we could assume equal likelihood that a paper is published on any given day and find that only 2192 papers are published per day. So your paper would represent 0.05% of papers published on the day it appears.  Better act fast since things get worse if you consider a whole week. You get my point.

So why should anyone read your paper? More accurately, how can you convince me to read your paper if I don't even know it exists?  Answer: You have to market it.  Some authors at some institutions who publish in some journals (AJIC not ICHE) are lucky, since someone does the marketing for them.  If you're not so lucky, you and your colleagues have to do the marketing.  If you're looking for the how and why we should market our science, look no further than this month's issue of Nature Materials. It includes an editorial, commentary and interview of Marc Kuchner, astrophysicist and author of a new book titled Marketing for Scientists, each discussing the importance of science marketing.

This isn't just about selling your paper or raising your profile, nor is it limited to increasing your chances of NIH funding, but rather it has very large public health implications.  We have spent years in infection prevention quietly studying methods to prevent the spread of resistant bacterial pathogens and reducing surgical infections with very little notice and certainly very little funding.  By nature we are type-A, quiet and hard working folk, who don't want to rock the boat.  Well, guess what?  It ain't working.

To emphasize our lack of voice...Q: Who are the two most prominent public voices in quality improvement / infection prevention?  A: Peter Pronovost (critical care) and Atul Gawande (surgery).  Thank goodness someone is speaking up!

So what can we do?

1) When you publish a paper on antibacterial resistance or infection prevention, advertise it.  Get on twitter or Facebook. Call your local paper's science reporter if they still have one, work with your hospital or university to do a press release, and demand the journal do a press release (see point #2)

2) Call ICHE and SHEA and insist on a press releases for your paper, even if it's not published in ICHE (joking on that last part). Currently, ICHE does a little monthly email thingy on 1-2 papers - not going to work!  Ask them to emulate what APIC and AJIC do - much better!

3) Call your representative and ask why no one is doing anything about new antibiotics and why there are all these infections without treatment.  Ask them why there is no direct funding from CMS for infection prevention services for acute and long-term care facilities. Use your science to start the conversation - say - "look what I just found!"

4) Start a local chapter of ID physicians, ICPs, microbiologists and others that focus on raising awareness for antibacterial resistance.  Work together to communicate resistance trends in your locality and the findings of your research. (I know I'm dreaming)

5) Get your state and local health departments involved - send them your papers. I bet they know a way to get newspapers interested in resistance.

We aren't just scientists, we are stewards of our science. If you care enough to do the study and publish the paper, you should care 10x more that someone reads and uses your science!

...that's all I got for now, see you on twitter...

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