Many population scientists conduct research that is relevant for a wide range of policy issues. Some are interested in disseminating their results to both policy and media audiences, but would benefit from expert advice on how to do this effectively. CPIPR's Advisory Committee identified a need for centralized information about best practices for effectively communicating research results to both policy and media audiences.

To help address this need, we have developed the following materials:

“Introduction to Using Twitter for Social Science”

Twitter has more than 310 million estimated active monthly users and is increasingly gaining popularity among social scientists and researchers. At the 2017 annual meeting of the Population Association of America (PAA), incoming PAA president Wendy Manning noted that “We have a responsibility to share our scientific knowledge,” and social media is an effective tool for sharing. Manning also noted that there are benefits to engaging with social media as a social scientist.

Twitter is useful for staying current on trends and developments in your field, highlighting your professional expertise, and networking (both online and in person). Many people now meet first on Twitter, and later meet in person at conferences or workshops. And many people also use Twitter to stay in touch in between the times they meet in person.

Building Your Twitter Network

A simple way to begin finding other Twitter users with similar interests is to start with a conference hashtag, like #PAA2017. Find people who used the hashtag and click on their profile to see what else they tweet about. If their content seems interesting, follow them.

In addition, each person’s profile contains a “following” list, which shows all the handles the person follows. You can scan that list for additional inspiration. As you begin to post content, people will reply, retweet, or follow you. Your own base of followers will grow over time as people read and engage with your posts. You may choose to follow some, all, or none of the people who follow you. Over time you will see content that you find useful or informative and will figure out which accounts to follow (or unfollow).

Finding Your Voice

It is perfectly acceptable to use Twitter as a viewer while you get your bearings. Once you feel comfortable engaging—either replying to tweets, retweeting other tweets, or posting your own—you will also begin to find your Twitter voice. You will notice that some tweets generate more engagement than others. (Photos, videos, and numbers tend to boost engagement. More details are provided in the slides that accompany this article.) You may notice, and try out, styles used by others. Some users have success with list-format posts and some with chart-plus-explanation format. Some users prefer headline-style tweets that make you want to read the research paper linked to the tweet. Some users take a simple approach of engaging thoughtfully with others. Experiment and see what works for you.

Twitter terminology, use, and best practices can be found in this presentation (with notes): How to Tweet Like a Demographer (PDF).

For questions or additional information, contact Mark Mather or Beth Jarosz

New Tools and Best Practices in Communicating Research Results to Media and Policy Audiences”

CPIPR organized this invited session at the 2017 Population Association of America Annual Meeting to address the changing media landscape and the growth in communication through social media channels such as Twitter, blogs, and podcasts. Five researchers who are successfully disseminating demographic data and research findings through social media shared their experiences and advice for using these new tools to communicate effectively with policy and media audiences. The speakers were:

D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research Center (Slides: PDF)

Philip Cohen, University of Maryland, College Park (Slides: PDF)

Mathew Hauer, University of Georgia (Slides: PDF)

Mark Mather, PRB (Slides: PDF)

Wendy Manning, Bowling Green State University (Slides: PDF)

Communicating With Media Audiences

D'Vera Cohn, former Washington Post Reporter, shares her advice and strategies for speaking effectively with reporters and building positive ongoing relationships with the media.
View webcast (Time: 14 minutes)
View PowerPoint (PDF: 101KB)

Communicating With Policy Audiences

At the 2011 Population Association of America Meetings meetings in May, CPIPR hosted a session "Communicating Demographic Results to Policymakers."
View webcast (Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes)

Two presenters shared their advice on how researchers can effectively share their results with policymakers:

  • Mary Jo Hoeksema, Director of Government and Public Affairs, Population Association of America and Association of Population Centers (View PowerPoint PDF: 81KB)
  • Steven Robinson, Senior Policy Advisor for the Republican staff, Joint Economic Committee, and formerly Chief Social Security Advisor for the Senate Finance Committee (View PowerPoint PDF: 29KB)

Three presenters shared their experiences and lessons learned in successfully communicating their policy-relevant findings to decisionmakers on Capitol Hill and in government agencies:

  • Nicole Kunko, Chief of Public Policy, Association of States and Territorial Health Officials, and formerly professional staff for the Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations of the U.S. House of Representatives for 11 years (View PowerPoint PDF: 436KB)
  • Robert Moffitt, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Economics, Johns Hopkins University (View PowerPoint PDF: 47KB)
  • Jane Waldfogel, Professor of Social Work and Public Affairs at Columbia University (View PowerPoint PDF: 184KB)