6 reasons for academics to create podcasts

Are you an academic who wants to communicate your research to a wider audience? Do you want to inspire the next generation of researchers and encourage young people to follow in your footsteps? Creating a podcast is a great way to achieve this.

At Futurum, we have started producing podcasts as part of our collection of educational resources, in which academics share the stories behind their research and talk to students about the exciting opportunities in their research fields.

We recently found this blog from Coursify about ‘6 reasons to use a podcast as a marketing tool’ and we realised these reasons also apply to academics marketing their research. So, why should you create a podcast for young people? Here, we explain why Coursify’s reasons also apply to you.

  1. Relationship

Podcasts allow you to talk directly to your listeners, meaning you can build a relationship with your audience. This is important; if your audience feels they know you, they will have a deeper connection to you and your research. It is important for students to know that academics are people, too! You have hobbies and interests, you’ve overcome challenges, you get excited about what you do. If you work on a very niche topic, it can be hard to enthuse anyone who is not in your specific field about your research. But hearing your voice as you tell your story will help students engage with your work and, if students feel like they know you as a person, it will help your research come alive.

  1. Accessibility

People can listen to podcasts anywhere, at any time. As an audio format, podcasts can accompany people as they do other things. This means students can listen to you share your stories while they’re on the bus or walking to school, or while they’re doing chores.

The personal stories shared in a podcast mean that complicated academic research can become accessible to a much wider audience. Podcasts are also an accessible format for students who might struggle to take in written information. They are a great way to engage students who have difficulty in reading and understanding written articles about complex topics. Alongside our podcasts, we also produce transcripts of the conversation, to ensure the resource is accessible for those with hearing difficulties or who don’t speak English as their first language.

  1. Authenticity

As Coursify points out, addressing your listeners directly creates trust. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the issue of public trust (or lack thereof) in science and scientists. Speaking directly to young people through a podcast is an ideal way to build their trust in research.

In our podcasts, researchers talk candidly about the experiences that have shaped them as an academic. Providing an authentic behind-the-scenes look at your research will inspire students to take an interest in your subject. What inspired you to become a researcher? How have your life experiences shaped your career journey? What motivated you to work on your chosen topic? Podcasts provide the perfect opportunity for sharing these stories with school students.

For example, Dr Laurel Lynch discusses how childhood holidays in the Alaskan wilderness gave her a love of the outdoors and encouraged her to ask questions about the landscapes around her, which led to her career in ecosystem ecology. Professor James Lupski was inspired to become a clinical genomicist because he wanted to understand his own genetic condition. After leaving university to have a baby, Dr Cheryl Talley was encouraged to return to finish her degree, ten years later, by people who believed in her and saw her potential. This taught her the importance of mentoring and relationships, so she founded a programme that uses the power of mentoring to help students achieve success. And Professor Peter Gammon shares how he changed his mind and his direction many times since leaving school at 16, highlighting the many routes that are available into the field of electrical engineering.

  1. Assertiveness

As an academic, you can talk with authority about your topic. You are the expert, so by sharing your work you can inspire students to take an interest in your research. As well as sharing their personal stories, the researchers we work with offer advice and encouragement for students. This includes specific suggestions for getting started in a career in the field and general guidance for life. Laurel and James both recommend finding work experience in a scientific lab, and Peter points out that English language skills are just as important for engineers as maths and physics. Due to his genetic condition, James couldn’t attend school for many years, so he shares the importance of learning how to learn and acknowledging that everyone’s learning style is unique. Cheryl is passionate about ensuring all students reach their potential, and she believes that knowing yourself is key to achieving this. What advice can you offer young people hoping to follow in your footsteps?

  1. Scope

Podcasts are a great way to build new relationships with an audience you might not normally interact with, increasing the scope of your communication. When you make exciting discoveries in your research and publish your results in academic journals, chances are your article will only be read by other researchers in your field. Very few research articles make headlines in the mainstream media. If you haven’t cured a deadly disease or named a new dinosaur, then it can be hard to reach non-academics to let them know about the huge range of incredible and interesting research that occurs in academic institutions. Educational podcasts are a great way to break out of the ivory tower and share your research with a new audience by talking directly to young people to explain the significance of your work.

  1. Exclusivity

While all academics publish research articles in academic journals, creating a podcast will make you stand out from the crowd. If young people don’t know anyone with a career in your field, then they are less likely to consider such a career themselves. If they don’t have family and friends who have attended university, then they are less likely to attend university. You can be a role model to inspire the next generation, and an educational podcast gives you this opportunity.

If you want to create an educational podcast to share your story, contact [email protected]