The Trainee Mentorship Series is a periodic webinar hosted by the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation (ISRHML) Trainee Interest Group (TIG) designed to share the wisdom of experienced ISRHML researchers with those still in training. Each session is presented by a senior ISRHML member on a topic related to his or her expertise, which includes lessons related to research and/or navigating a career in the field of human milk and lactation. The first session of the 2018 series was presented on January 24th, entitled “Navigating Online Spaces to Reach Diverse Stakeholders,” presented by Dr. Katie Hinde, and coordinated by Dr. Anita Esquerra-Zwiers.
The Starfish Parable
One day, a man was walking on a beach and saw that when the tide went out, millions of starfish were left stranded in the hot sun. While considering the vast number of starfish that would die that day, he saw a little girl standing close to the water, tossing starfish back into the sea, one by one. He approached the little girl and said, “The problem is too big, what you’re doing does not matter.” The little girl didn’t pause, and tossed another starfish into the sea. She replied, “It matters to that one.”
Dr. Hinde shared “The Starfish Parable” as part of her Trainee Mentorship Series to illustrate the fact that the internet can be an extremely useful tool for sharing science beyond our immediate scientific colleagues and peers. Her main message was that as a scientist, you may not be able to reach everyone, but there are specific strategies you can employ to reach certain demographics and craft your messages for specific audiences. Dr. Hinde referred to this as “owning your own narrative,” and suggested that by ignoring the internet (particularly social media) as a source for dissemination of scientific results, we are doing ourselves a substantial disservice. According to Dr. Hinde, most adults (worldwide) are involved in some form of social media, making it a platform that extends beyond borders and into even remote areas of the world. For trainees, Dr. Hinde recommends getting involved in online (free!) publication platforms such as The Conversation, the ISRHML TIG Blog, and even Twitter, to share science and reach more people. Of course, these media venues do not replace peer-review, but can expand the pool of people who hear about and understand research after it has withstood the test and rigors of conventional peer review and scientific publishing.
Dr. Hinde also shared advice on how to present yourself as a scientist in non-traditional forums, with the first and foremost being to always navigate any public space or forum “as if you’re at a podium, being recorded.” She also recommends taking a media training workshop, which can help you learn how to navigate public requests for commentary on your research, such as those from reporters. Many universities and societies offer media training, so keep an eye out for one that is available to you.
Dr. Hinde emphasized that there are a variety of platforms that can be used, and a variety of strategies that can be employed within a platform, which can help you reach your target audience more efficiently. For example, on Twitter, you could be an amplifier, where you retweet things that others have shared rather than sharing a lot of your own content. This can lend to your credibility and knowledge as an expert in a given field, based on the content you promote. Ultimately, Dr. Hinde suggests that you determine the best platform and strategy based on your message, and then use it to your advantage to reach and share your science with more people.
NEW! For this session only, if you’d like to hear more about what Dr. Hinde had to say on this topic, you can listen to the entire session here. In the future, Trainee Mentorship Series recordings will be available exclusively to ISRHML members, so join ISHRML today! If you’re interested, more information on joining ISRHML as a trainee member and the TIG can be found on the ISRHML website.
Thank you, Dr. Hinde, for this most excellent session of the Trainee Mentorship Series! If you have a topic you’d like to see on the schedule or are interested in helping coordinate a future Trainee Mentorship Series with your academic adviser or other senior researcher in the field of human milk and lactation, e-mail our Trainee Mentorship Series Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, keep up with TIG to learn about the next Mentorship Series and other goings on in the (trainee) world of international research in human milk and lactation!