Marketing for Scientists: A Book about the Business of Doing Science

by Guest on February 15, 2012

This is a guest post by Marc Kuchner, a staff scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center.  Kuchner is a former Hubble fellow, and he won the SPIE Early Career Achievement Award in 2009 for his work on exoplanets. He is also the author of a new book that we should probably all read.

Six years ago, I switched from being a postdoc myself to suddenly being an advisor of postdocs. This transition was weird enough on its own, because nobody teaches you how to be a good postdoc mentor.  But then, in 2008, the economy crashed, and it became apparent that my anecdotal advice and avuncular chin scratching was not going to cut it anymore.

So I wrote a book called Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times, to teach myself what I needed to know to feel like a confident advisor in this harsh economy. In the process I met many surprises that changed the way I think about astrophysics and about life! Now I want you all to read it, even if you’re not a postdoc. I’m tired of seeing science abused on television and young scientists beaten down by a broken system—for lack of better marketing.

The book is about science careers, science communication, and science advocacy. It has advice on writing papers and attending conferences. There are chapters on outreach and science policy. There are tricks on how to get better letters of recommendation from your advisor. What’s even better than a 30 second elevator speech? Four kinds of grant proposals not to write. Three kinds of figures every scientist needs.

But I didn’t call the book “Science Communication Tips” or “Job-Seeking Advice for Scientists” for a reason. I think we need to get past the idea that “Marketing” might be a dirty word. For example, every paper you write, every talk you give, is a piece of marketing—for your work and for yourself. As Shri Kulkarni once said at a Keck Science Meeting, “being a good scientist is half science and half marketing.”

And once you admit that what you’re really doing is marketing, a whole new world opens up. There are shelves of marketing books to read, blogs and journals that offer useful information. Hey, some people even get degrees in marketing.

The trick is figuring out how to apply the marketing literature to the business of doing science. So the book offers an introduction to the marketing concepts I thought were most valuable for us: branding, salesmanship, storytelling, positioning, relationship building, archetypes, and so on. Then it tries to apply these ideas to the business of being a scientist.

You all must read this book: it’s only about 13$ on Amazon. If you can’t afford it, I will lend you a copy.

You might also enjoy the articles at marketingforscientists.com.  There are interviews with Dennis Overbye, Michael Lemonick, Dan Vergano, John Mather, and many other useful tidbits. And if you’re a Facebook person, please join the Marketing for Scientists Facebook group.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Warrick March 12, 2012 at 8:17 am

If anyone’s interested, ProfHacker recently gave the book a positive review.

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