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7 Ways Universities Are Telling Their Research Stories

Posted on May 8, 2016
7 Ways Universities Are Telling Their Research Stories

The profile of university research is climbing the agenda. Rapidly. Here’s just 7 of the ways it’s happening:

One: Broadcast

Identifying the big stories, filming them and putting them out there is an obvious place to start. It’s no surprise that we’ve seen a major upsurge in research news hitting our screens. TU Delft in the Netherlands are no strangers to broadcast, having produced their own ‘Brain Drops’ research series on YouTube. But it’s their ‘Ambulance Done’ story that really caught my eye – and the eyes of over 6 million others – proving just how arresting the work of a university could be.


Two: Compelling Stories

I used to think that leafcutter ants carried off relatively huge leaves to eat as a fresh meal within the safety of their own colony. But having been bitten by the compelling ‘Eat Bugs’ story from UEA I now know the truth. They’re using the leaves to cultivate a fungus that, once eaten by larvae, helps to coat the ants in antibiotics. Potentially a new source of protection for humans? We certainly need it. UEA prove the power of compelling storytelling, whilst recognising that different audiences want to be fed content in different ways – and that’s why there are web pages, videos, profiles, 3D explorations and even an AntCam – right at the heart of the action. You can see more here.

Three: Highlights

Deakin University proved that the highlights of their 2015 research year could be broken up and wrapped into a video and shared throughout social media. In a little over 4 minutes they captured their research story. It can be done!

Four: Newsjacking

Finding a big story, or event, to jump on the back of is a great way of boosting research profile. The research from UWE Bristol into the energy producing power of urine wasn’t getting the publicity it deserved until an opportunity was spotted at the ever-popular Glastonbury music festival in 2015. And the ‘Pee-Powered Toilet’ was born. Festival goers were able to urinate in a special toilet to harness their power, and the lights of the building! The media glare on Glastonbury soon deflected into this research story and news channels soaked it all up. We saw the same with ‘Back to the Future Day’, and the release of the latest Star Wars film with universities spotting opportunities to release relevant research stories.

Five: People

It’s rare to see a university promote its research staff really well. So much attention goes into student profiles, blogs and vlogs, whilst researchers are left with a little text and not much else. We are expecting that to change over the next couple of years. But the University of New South Wales are way ahead of the curve, with their ‘Wild Researchers’ series of photos capturing vivid images of scientists in their natural habitat. Award winning photographer Tamara Dean helped to put a human-face on the work of 17 researchers, showing them at work, often in the most interesting of ways. Check here to see them in sand dunes, swamps, caves and much more. Mashable picked it up, and you should too.

Six: Virtual Reality

The virtual world of headsets and goggles will undoubtedly have a big part to play in bringing research to life. The New York Times offers one of the best windows into the potential with their own research stories available now via 360 video. And, if you have purchased the cardboard headsets, you can really immerse yourself through virtual reality. Have a look for yourself.

Seven: Community Outreach

Here’s a great idea. Why not create a meeting place for research, the public and society – right in the heart of the community. That’s what the University of Helsinki did with their ‘Think Corner’ in the middle of the city. Science is brought to street level and engagement can go through the roof. We’re seeing ‘pop ups’ from universities and industry appear all over the place now – expect to see research become a key part of the new story.

That’s just 7 things out there. But there’s a lot more to dig into.  At the Future Index we work with clients to help them see the bigger picture and opportunity. We bring it all to life through our presentations, workshops and consulting. If you want to know more then please contact Jim Tudor at  or tweet us @futureindex.

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