Can a Tumblr Counter the “Golden Fleece” Treatment?

That’s the question I have after exploring this:

The blog in question is actually a Tumblr site from the Science, Engineering and Education Innovation (SEEInnovation) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF).  SEEInnovation is supposed to communicate research results to interested non-researchers.  This could include policymakers, science-related organizations (their words, not mine), and the public (well, at least they get mentioned).

The Tumblr provides brief descriptions, along with graphics, of various NSF-supported research projects.  So we have a bit more than the silly-seeming soundbites that characterize the political attacks on grants that appear to be wasteful (typified by William Proxmire and his Golden Fleece Awards).  You also don’t have the depth of detail and explanation that can easily prompt the regular reader to disengage from getting too much information that they don’t quite understand (from a reader’s lack of knowledge or a writer’s inability to communicate, or both).

So, could it help push back against soundbite criticism of science?  Complemented with other communications tools, I think it can help.  But a quick survey of the entries to date indicate one issue.  The text does not consistently communicate to the general interest reader why the project matters to them.  Many do, which is great.  But this is something that should always happen.

Another issue is how well this resource can be communicated to the intended SEEInnovation audiences.  Without getting a look at the Tumblr’s page views, likes and shares, I don’t have an answer for this.  Hopefully someone at NSF is keeping track.

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