Making sea ice a hot topic – meereisportal.de collaborates with the FU Berlin when it comes to Social Media
30 April 2020
Since 2013 meereisportal.de has offered carefully prepared data and information on all as-pects of sea ice, and gathered first-hand scientific findings (in German), so as to provide in-terested users with direct access to the topic. Accordingly, conveying complex interrelations and processes in an informative and straightforward way has always been a major priority for the portal, one of the most central knowledge transfer projects for the climate initiative REKLIM and the Alfred Wegener Institute. This focus is naturally accompanied by a host of new (and increasingly common in the age of digitalisation) demands on and challenges for the knowledge platform: not only accurate content and scientific relevance, but also improved visibility and promoting transparency are important to us. To that end, what could be a more natural choice than exploring the advantages of modern communication channels like Social Media? It goes without saying that today, it’s not just the quality of information that counts, but also its reach and clarity. In this regard, meereisportal.de has seized the initiative and actively sought a dialogue with budding media experts.
This was the basis for the collaboration with the degree programme in Media and Communi-cation Studies at the FU Berlin, which was founded in 2016 and which, in the seminar course “Methods and Structures of PR Practice”, introduces a new group of future media experts to the work done at the portal every year. Under the supervision of Professor Tong-Jin Smith, the media students work to develop concepts for presenting meereisportal.de on various So-cial Media channels; for them, the major challenges lies in familiarising themselves with a subject they know relatively little about, and then professionally presenting it. In Smith’s view, the advantages are obvious: “Young users know the effects and mechanisms of Social Media from their own day-to-day lives, and actively investigate new ways to acquire information that is later shared in their network, while also using visual formats to illustrate that information. Social Media has become an important element of public communication in terms of raising awareness for specific topics that are personally important to certain groups of users.” In the context of seminars on marketing strategy, the students enjoy a great deal of freedom, and can integrate their own creativity and personal experiences into the planning, so as to explore new avenues for conveying information. Consequently, the Social Media channels of meereisportal.de round out the portfolio of services for sea-ice enthusiasts and have already been the source of several exciting ideas.
In the course, students work in teams to develop strategies, and to prepare and post the latest sea-ice news on a regular basis. In this regard, every Social Media channel requires its own form of presentation, tailored to the technical possibilities and user group; as a result, the same topic can be presented in a variety of ways. The topics are prepared by the teams and coordinated with the supervisors, who are in direct contact with the meereisportal.de team; an approach that not only ensures quality control, but also helps to verify the sources used and the accuracy of the content. The students learn how to prepare posts, and how to respond to users’ questions. The individual channels have now gathered an audience of regular readers. Glimpses into the work processes involved in, and the value of, this collaboration can be found in an article in the REKLIM magazine: “Science Communication - Climate expertise for journalism students” (https://www.reklim.de/magazin/wissenschaftskommunikation/). As Dr Renate Treffeisen, who initiated the media project and supervises it for REKLIM, proudly re-ports: “Particularly in today’s context, in which ‘fake news’ is used more and more often, pro-ducing a sense of ‘losing touch with reality’, it’s especially important to us that we counter this trend by presenting real facts. But it takes specially trained ‘communicators’ to do so: media experts. The sooner these experts come to understand what research is good for, how re-searchers work, and how they arrive at their findings, the sooner they’ll be willing and able to convey these aspects. Our dialogue and interactions with media students from the Freie Uni-versität Berlin in Tong-Jin Smith’s seminar have set an important process in motion, in which both sides can take away valuable insights for their own work.”
When it comes to providing news and information, entertainment and conveying facts are by no means mutually exclusive, as the current media coverage of MOSAiC, the greatest re-search expedition to the Arctic, shows. In addition to articles and papers on the latest scientific findings, especially the entertaining stories and interactive quizzes to be found on Instagram invite users to join in. On Twitter, too, the content provided has sparked a great deal of inter-est and helped to promote constant exchanges between different sea-ice enthusiasts. In the meantime, a growing community of followers has formed, one whose members are inten-sively interconnected and certainly aren’t limited to researchers. Given the public debate on global warming and climate change, many people now feel the need to get informed, and to go beyond what they can find in the headlines. Moreover, the exclusive content also frequent-ly offers a unique look behind the scenes, e.g. when researchers share their experiences dur-ing the expedition, or explain how they prepared for such an adventure. “Social Media chan-nels are a great way to gather a wealth of information and put it in context, creating true add-ed value. Working together, we can ensure that the latest news on Arctic and Antarctic sea ice reaches the public, where it can contribute to a future ‘change of heart’ on the issue of climate change,” explain Saskia Busler and Timo Liebergesell, who have been the two on-site contacts for meereisportal.de in the courses since 2018, and liaise between the students and the meereisportal team in Bremerhaven.