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Science Communication

Listen Up: Podcasts for Scientists


Kathryn Muehlberger, Client Communications Specialist

April 2021

Sometimes you need a good podcast to listen to help the time go by. While listening to podcasts can be educational in general, as a scientist, you can use podcasts to your advantage. Podcasts are (mostly) free, easily accessible, and the topics are endless. However, with so many options, where do you start? In this LetPub article, we show you how to identify podcasts most suitable for your scientific discipline and interests, as well as the key takeaways from listening in.

But first, what is a podcast?

A podcast is a form of digital audio and/or video file recording with a speaker (or several) discussing a particular topic or interest. Usually, they are part of a series with multiple episodes, ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours or even longer. Podcasts can be downloaded from a website or found on an audio platform such as Apple, Spotify, or Google. Take some time to find the platform that works best for you. Once you identify a platform you like, you can explore the different genres and narrow down which podcasts cover topics within your research/desired field. The possibilities are truly endless!

A good podcast, particularly a science-focused one, should be educational and provide the following: accurate information and a speaker that shares thought provoking ideas and an unbiased opinion, allowing listeners to form their own conclusions and apply what they learned to their work. Here are some examples:

1. Stronger by Science is run by Dr. Eric Trexler and Greg Nuckols who are experts in the exercise science world and share ‘practical, evidence-based information and resources’ for all things fitness. They keep it engaging and fresh by incorporating anecdotes and Q&A’s. If you are in the field of nutrition and/or fitness, then this is the podcast for you!
2. If medicine is your practice, then Sawbones is worth a try. Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband, podcaster Justin McElroy, dive into the diseases, viruses, and historical medical events of today and yesterday. They have several few episodes about COVID-19.
3. Famous scientist, Bill Nye, has his own podcast, Science Rules!, which provides a nostalgic and (always) scientifically driven discussion. He teams up with science writer Corey S. Powell to take phone calls from listeners with burning science questions. Bill Nye brings his quirky sense of humor and engages listeners to know the straight facts about science and learn something new.

There are so many podcasts available, so it is simply a matter of listening to some to learn what you like (and don’t like). Well-known journals and/or publishers, such as Science and Nature, are excellent places to start.

After you find a few podcasts you enjoy, you will likely discover there are some benefits to tuning in. Podcasts can give the opportunity to scientists to step outside their work and provide some perspective. Trisha Stan, a PhD scholar from Stanford University states, “One way of gaining that perspective is through delving into topics outside one’s specific expertise. This can help scientists better understand how their research fits into the greater scientific enterprise, and it can provide an opportunity to strengthen general research skills.” This is key for those who are hyper-focused on their research day in and day out. If you are a non-academic scientist, another benefit is that podcasts can help jumpstart a potential new career opportunity. In other words, podcasts can offer a “…hands-on experience in science communication without committing to a career change…” as written in a Science article.

Whether you are looking to explore new ideas, join a conversation, or unwind, podcasts can satisfy those desires, in addition to benefiting the scientific community by disseminating career-specific information and connecting you with individuals inside (or outside) your social academic network.

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