Research marketing

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction plus a social media overreaction.

Posts By: Andy Dunne

Strengthening our marketing ties with Stellenbosch

📥  International, Research news

Over the past year we've done more to tell the stories behind some of the many research collaborations that have come about as a result of the University's focus on internationalisation. 

Joining us on Skype to discuss collaborative research promotion, Huba Boshoff from the Centre for Partnerships & Internationalisation at Stellenbosch University.

Joining us on Skype to discuss collaborative research promotion, Huba Boshoff from the Centre for Partnerships & Internationalisation at Stellenbosch University.

In 2016, via the new 'Worldwide' section of our website, we promoted a range of stories tied to our collaborations in South Africa and Brazil timed to coincide with important events.

Our South Africa section launched to coincide with the Going Global Conference in Cape Town in May, but was an opportunity to talk about a range of ongoing research with international partners from water irrigation systems (through the Water Innovation Research Centre) to responses to child trauma (through the Department of Psychology).

Launched in August and using the hook of the Olympics, our Brazil section drove online traffic to varied projects from recycling polymers (led by the Centre for Sustainable Technologies) to examining data behind Brazil's reforms to corporate governance (led by the School of Management).

Some of this new content has also been used by our international marketing counterparts, including those at Stellenbosch University (South Africa) who adapted features written for the South Africa section for their alumni and stakeholder newsletter, 'Matieland' (see pp 16-17).

With the International Office we'll continue to build this relationship - starting with regular catch ups on Skype - so that we can better coordinate marketing and communications when it comes to international visits and research announcements.

Watch this space for more.

Marketing Saiful Islam's Ri Christmas Lectures

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📥  Event, Research news, social

Hopefully in between mince pies and merriment you caught this year's Royal Institution (Ri) CHRISTMAS LECTURES broadcast on BBC FOUR over three nights during the festive period and delivered by our very own Professor Saiful Islam.

Professor Saiful Islam - this year's Ri Christmas Lecturer.

Professor Saiful Islam - this year's Ri Christmas Lecturer. (Photo Credit - Paul Wilkinson).

In the time between Saiful being announced as the Ri's Christmas Lecturer for its 80th Anniversary year last August, through to broadcast over Christmas, we worked closely with him and the team at the Ri to ensure we made the most of the event from a marketing perspective - both in terms of Saiful's own research and expertise, as well as for the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, the Department of Chemistry and the University more generally.

'Supercharged: Fuelling the future'

From our end this included a range of marketing outputs: a new online feature on Saiful's journey; an extensive social media campaign across all channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) which included video teasers for the lectures and competition to win tickets for filming; new printed materials to promote the lectures to our students; mail-shots out to our alumni; and of course use of the Digital screens around campus to highlight his involvement.


In addition to all the preparations for filming, at the Ri our colleagues created a dedicated CHRISTMAS LECTURE section of the website; arranged photoshoots; created new printed collateral; and mailed their many thousands of subscribers about Saiful's involvement.

We also worked very closely with the Ri on media exposure too. Of the 150 pieces of national and international coverage across print and broadcast media particular highlights included features in the Observer 'You need more than one electric eel to light a Christmas tree'; an interview for Radio 4's Start The Week with Andrew Marr; as well as coverage across other national print media and, crucially, in the Christmas Radio Times!

All combined, with online traffic to the various marketing initiatives and press coverage, this helped capture an audience in the 100,000s in advance of broadcast. Viewing figures for the CHRISTMAS LECTURES - now available to watch again via the Ri Channel – suggest these were watched by over 1.7 million.

Follow on engagements

Fresh from his Christmas appearances, once back on campus in early January my colleague Chris arranged for Saiful to take part in Reddit AMA looking back at the lectures and focusing in on Saiful's own research. This has had an online reach of 7.5 million (for more on our AMAs see this other blog post).

In late January we then publicised new research from Saiful on developing faster, recharging lithium batteries which has already received significant national and international coverage.

The Ri held a Family Fun Day in early February in which Saiful gave mini-lectures (with bangs) and PhD students from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies presented a hands-on exhibit on green energy.

We're now eagerly awaiting Bath Taps into Science, where Saiful's family talk on Wednesday night has already sold out, and looking further ahead to Saiful's involvement in our 6 May University of Bath Festival.


Each year tickets to watch filming of the Ri's CHRISTMAS LECTURES are allocated by a ballot in September. This is open to Ri Members and UK schools; you can find out more about supporting the charity by becoming a member here


Reddit's Ask Me Anything

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📥  Sector news, social

Just before Christmas I blogged on our use of Facebook Live to engage our social media followers in a new way about our research and expertise. This time it's the turn of another social media tool: Reddit's 'Ask Me Anything' (AMAs). 

Since the start of the year, we've promoted two AMAs - first with Saiful Islam, fresh from the Royal Society's CHRISTMAS LECTURES, and just recently with Joanna Bryson on Artificial Intelligence - both of which attracted huge online audience and engagement.

Fresh from the Ri CHRISTMAS LECTURES, Professor Saiful Islam's Reddit AMA attracted an audience of 10,000.

Fresh from the Ri CHRISTMAS LECTURES, Professor Saiful Islam's Reddit AMA attracted an audience of 10,000.

A brief history of AMAs

AMAs were created by the Reddit community as an opportunity for interesting individuals to field questions about anything and everything. Over the past few years, high profile AMAs with Barack Obama, Sir David Attenborough and Elon Musk have generated lots of interest in Reddit and AMAs in particular.

In an effort to bring science education to the masses, Reddit's Science community (known as /r/Science) has used this model to create an independent, science-focused AMA Series – the Science AMA Series. Its goal is to encourage discussion and facilitate outreach while helping to bridge the gap between practising scientists and the general public. This is something that is open to any research scientist, or group of
scientists, that wants to have a candid conversation with the large, diverse and normally very well informed Reddit Science community.

How it works and why it's beneficial

Reddit describes its AMA Series as 'a unique format' in that it allows scientists to speak about their work in a manner that is not possible within the confines of traditional short-form journalism. Via AMAs,
questions can be explained individually and follow-up points fielded so that the readers have a clearer understanding of the field and research being discussed.

AMAs are particularly useful for researchers looking to clarify their findings and expand upon their results in situations where the mainstream press releases were too limited to accurately convey their work. In this way AMAs are often referred to as an 'open source interview'.

Reddit's Science community extends to more than 13 million so it's a huge opportunity to get research and expertise in front of an engaged audience. All you need to take part is a few free hours and a computer.

How our AMAs fared

To date, Saiful's AMA had a total reach of 7.5 million, with 5,080 votes and nearly 10,000 users clicking through read his answers. Joanna's had a total reach of 19.54 million, with over 14,002 votes and over 41,000 users clicking through to read her answer to AI-related questions. Both generated lots of social media engagement, which also fed through to media coverage. Joanna's AMA was picked up by Tech Crunch - a channel which is followed by over 8,000,000 on Twitter.

If you'd be interested in being put forward for an AMA please let us know and we'll look for opportunities.

Engaging our followers through Facebook Live

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📥  Event

Promoting our research and expertise using social media is not a new thing, but over this past year we’ve done much more to think about the ways in which we’re using our main social channels to grow our audiences and better engage people with our stories.  

For the University’s Twitter and Facebook, we’ve seen a significant jump in numbers for our followers and much more engagement (retweets / likes) to boot. More than 50,000 people now follow @uniofbath on Twitter and our Facebook page (/uniofbath) has over 55,000 likes.

That’s a huge audience of students past and present, parents, important stakeholders from different sectors, international partners, media contacts; not to mention staff and members of the local community, each getting updates on our activities on a daily basis.

With better planning of more engaging content (videos, photos, GIFs) we’ve grown our audience and we’re getting more interaction (leading to increased web traffic on our site) as a result.

Going live

For the last two months we’ve also trialled Facebook Live events. This format grew in prominence in 2016 having been adopted by certain media organisations and high profile individuals.

Facebook Live is a free service enabling Facebook users to film content on their iPhones or tablets to broadcast to their followers. As it goes out, followers pose questions, comment on discussions, and others can watch again after the event if they missed it live the first time.

Facebook Live in our Department of Poltitics, Languages & International Studies

Facebook Live in our Department of Poltitics, Languages & International Studies

We’ve used this twice, both times with the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, drawing on the expertise of their researchers to comment on the big issues of the day: Trump and Brexit in November (with Professor Charlie Lees) and Europe at a crossroads in December (with Professor Anna Bull and Dr Aurelien Mondon - see our videos below).

These are broadcasts of between 20-30 minutes, filmed in 1W on an iPhone, and timed to coincide with people’s lunch breaks (they went out at 12.30PM). With just two examples they’ve shown the potential in using this format to tell other research stories from right across the University in 2017. Upcoming events could include demonstrating research live, going into labs and conducting interviews out and about on campus; we're working on plans.

Our November Live event drew a crowd of nearly 2,000 and our December Live event, filmed on Wednesday 21 December, has already significantly surpassed that (and will continue to grow in reach). Both elicited interesting questions and discussion points from far and wide.

Watch again

Europe at a crossroads in 2017

  • John Evans is joined by Aurelien Mondon and Anna Bull - 21 December 2016
  • Watch again 

From Trump to Brexit

  • Andy Dunne and Charlie Lees discuss a tumultuous year in UK politics and the election of President Trump in the US - 10 November
  • Watch again 

My thanks to Sophie in our marketing team who has been leading much of this work and was on hand to film both. From January onwards we’ll be running more of these, so stay tuned and Merry Christmas / Happy New Year in the meantime!

Glistening research stories decorate campus

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📥  50th anniversary, Research news

You may have spotted our brand new series of research posters springing up around campus over the past few weeks to coincide with the start of the new academic year.

Recently installed across 13 locations from the East Building to the entrance of 10W, these new window vinyls reflect some of the latest research successes across each of the Faculties, the School of Management and our Institutes.

Glistening in gold in the autumn sun they’ve been designed as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations and its ‘look further’ campaign.

Over the course of the academic year, we’ll be telling the individual stories behind each of them in a number of different ways. But, for the time being, here’s an overview of the research behind the posters:



Flexing our research muscle for the BBC

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📥  Research news

We had the pleasure of welcoming Michael Mosley and crew to campus a few months back to film the latest episode of ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’ which aired last night and asked whether or not stretching was important before doing exercise.

Putting Michael through his paces in our Applied Biomechanics Suite and around campus was Dr Polly McGuigan whose research interests within the Department for Health focus on muscle and tendon mechanics.

And stretch

For a whole day, Polly had Michael squatting, jumping and flexing before exercise in an effort to see what effect (if any) stretching had on his flexibility, performance and power.

Michael’s results revealed to him by Polly over coffee in The Edge CAFE showed that he was more flexible after the stretching routine due to reduced stiffness of his muscle-tendon units, but that this had a detrimental effect on performance: reducing his jump height and the amount of power produced by his muscles.

Powerful activities like jumping require muscles to develop a lot of force and to transmit that force to the skeleton very quickly. Stretching reduces the stiffness of muscle which means they transit their force a little more slowly, reducing the power of their contraction.

You'll find out more about Michael's results here.

Polly and Michael discuss results from his stretching tests outside The Edge

Polly and Michael discuss results from his stretching tests outside The Edge

Behind the scenes, what ends up as a 5 minute segment may have taken a whole day’s filming and also involved extra organising too – you may have spotted some familiar faces stretching and running around the lake during the introduction!

But when there’s an opportunity to reach an audience of around three million on primetime TV it’s an excellent opportunity to take and one that really helps to get our research and expertise out to the masses.

Lights, camera, action as Michael Mosely is put through his paces in our Applied Biomechanics Suite.

Lights, camera, action as Michael Mosley is put through his paces in our Applied Biomechanics Suite.



Amplifying messages

So how does an opportunity like this come up? Back at the beginning of 2015, we’d put Polly in touch with the editor on NHS Choices who was writing an article about pre-exercise stretching in light of new research casting doubt about its effectiveness.

Last night’s ‘Trust Me’ shows how one thing can lead to another, helping to amplify messages about research and expertise. As the BBC producer explained to me: ‘When we were trying to find an expert to talk to us about muscles and stretching, the NHS Choices article with Polly’s name were the first to come up.’

Watch last night's episode again via iPlayer - (starts - 44m35s)


Making sense of Stern

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📥  Research news, Sector news

The long-awaited Stern Review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) was published last week which outlines a number of recommendations in advance of the next assessment submission.

This autumn we expect to see a consultation on the detailed guidance with the results published next summer 2017. REF submissions are still set to be collected in 2020 with the assessment and results earmarked in 2021. Read more about Stern here via the THE.

To help us make sense of Stern and its implications for Bath, Katy McKen (Head of Research Information and Intelligence) has helpfully put together this list of the 12 main recommendations covered by Stern:

  1. All research active staff should be returned in the REF;
  2. Outputs should be submitted at UoA level with a  set average number per FTE but with flexibility for some faculty members to submit more and others less than the average;
  3. Outputs should not be portable;
  4. Panels should continue to assess on the basis of peer review.  However, metrics should be provided to support panel members in their assessment and panels should be transparent about their use;
  5. Institutions should be given more flexibility to showcase their interdisciplinary and collaborative impacts by submitting ‘institutional’ level impact case studies, part of a new institutional level assessment;
  6. Impact should be based on research of demonstrable quality.  However, case studies could be linked to a research activity and a body of work as well as to a broad range of research outputs;
  7. Guidance on the REF should make it very clear that impact case studies should not be narrowly interpreted, need not solely focus on socio-economic impacts but should also include impact on government policy, on public engagement and understanding, on cultural life, on academic impacts outside the field, and impacts on teaching;
  8. A new institutional level Environment assessment should include an account of the institution’s future research environment strategy, a statement of how it supports high quality research and research-related activities, including its support for interdisciplinary and cross-institutional initiatives and impact. It should form part of the institutional assessment and should be assessed by a specialist, cross-disciplinary panel;
  9. The individual UoA environment statements are condensed, made complementary to the institutional level environment statements and include those key metrics on research intensity specific to the UoA;
  10. Where possible REF data and metrics should be open, standardised and combinable with other research funders’ data collection processes in order to streamline data collection requirements and reduce the cost of compiling and submitting data;
  11. That Government and UKRI could make more strategic and imaginative use of REF, to better understand the health of the UK research base, our research resources and areas of high potential for future development, and to build the case for strong investment in research in the UK;
  12. Government should ensure that there is no increased administrative burden to HEIs from interactions between the TEF and REF, and that they together strengthen the vital relationship between teaching and research in  HEIs.

To find out more about our last REF submission and research performance see here. If you have comments or questions about the process from here, please contact Katy.

Don't miss also Dr Richard Watermeyer's (Department of Education) article on Stern for The Conversation.


International Images of Research

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📥  50th anniversary, Event

We had an opportunity on campus last week to celebrate and share our Images of Research with international colleagues visiting from Brazil and, in turn, to learn more about the kinds of projects they are involved in through some brand new, international Images of Research. 

This was all part of a reception, hosted to celebrate our partnership and shared interests with Unicamp, our Brazilian partners who also celebrate 50 years in 2016.

We were able to share our Images of Research with international colleagues from Unicamp at a reception held on campus last week.

We were able to share our Images of Research with international colleagues from Unicamp at a reception held on campus last week.

Celebrating international collaboration

For the past three weeks, 23 of our colleagues from Brazil have been on campus participating in a new course, designed through our Skills Centre, that will foster greater collaborations in the future - more about which you can read here.

During last Wednesday’s reception, Ed Stevens from our Public Engagement Unit, who organise the Images of Research initiative, spoke of the success in uptake we’ve seen in 2016 – this year we received the highest number of entries ever (50) with representation from right across the University and from the academic community at all stages of their careers.

After Ed we heard quick fire presentations from 10 researchers, five from Bath who talked about their Images of Research entries, and five from Unicamp, who displayed their own image and explained their work’s relevance, impacts and potential collaborations in just 5 minutes.

Bath researchers

From Bath it was a chance for Caroline Hickman, Ammar Azzouz, Paul de Bank, Cassie Phoenix and Jamie Francis-Jones to summarise their winning entries for the competition. From Caroline’s through to Jamie’s, these images cover an array of topics such as how our relationship with pets could help shape interventions for Alzheimer’s right through to the development of new optical fibres.

You’ll be able to find more about each of their Images of Research by clicking on the links above.

Unicamp researchers

Topics covered by Unicamp researchers were equally diverse, from the philosophy of happiness right through to carcinogens and future food engineering.

Tristan Torriani

Download Tristan's poster as a PDF.

Click to download Patricia's poster as a PDF.

Download Patricia's poster as a PDF.

Download Afredo's poster as a PDF.

Click to download the Marcelo's poster as a PDF

Please contact me if you would like a copy of Marcelo's poster!

Click to download Adriana's poster as a PDF.

Download Adriana's poster as a PDF.

If you’re interested in contacting any of the 5 Unicamp researchers to discuss potential collaborations please let me know.


A bumper month in The Conversation

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📥  Materials, Research news

From Brexit to (Gareth) Bale, dinosaurs to social death, June was our busiest month ever for The Conversation both in terms of published articles and readership.

In the one month alone, nearly three quarters of a million people around the world read content authored by our academics and 14 new articles – roughly one every other day – were published.

Dinosaur spike

June’s spike in traffic was driven to a large extent by one article, published towards the end of the month, by Dr Nick Longrich (Milner Centre for Evolution, Department of Biology & Biochemistry) which has already become our most read article ever, having been seen by 383,410 people.

How and where Conversation articles are republished is the key factor in determining their readership stats. Among many other sites to have picked up on Nick’s article, ‘The top six dinosaur myths and how we busted them’, IFL Science ran it which engaged a huge US audience. Over half its readership came from the US.

June saw our highest readership and the most number of articles published on The Conversation.

June saw our highest readership and the most number of articles published on The Conversation.

Bend it like Bale or bail it like Boris

Dinosaurs aside, June also saw a new article from Dr Ken Bray (Senior Visiting Fellow, Department of Mechanical Engineering) on the aerodynamics of the perfect free kick – published to coincide with the knock-out stages in the Euros and the progress of the Welsh national squad. Ken’s article has already been read by close to 20,000 and has been republished in India, Russia as well as closer to home for MailOnline.

Professor Charlie Lees (Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies) became one of our most prolific authors, providing quick turnaround responses to the EU referendum and its impact on the Conservative and Labour parties as well as the botched leadership bid from Boris Johnson.

Charlie’s three articles in June were read by a worldwide audience of nearly 30,000 and republished on prominent new websites, such as Newsweek. His latest article ‘Boris bails – or are we falling for another trick from magic Johnson?’ – was used in full in this Saturday’s i newspaper.

Charlie Lees' article on the decision of Boris Johnson not to stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party was republished by the i newspaper.

Charlie Lees' article on the decision of Boris Johnson not to stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party was republished by the i newspaper.

Other popular Conversation articles concerning the referendum included Dr Richard Fairchild’s (School of Management) ‘Game theory offers a better way forward in Britain’s EU drama’ and comments from Professor Bill Durodie (POLIS) in response to the vote to leave on the morning of Friday 24 June. Bill was also the first Bath academic to take part in The Conversation’s new podcast series The Anthill: ‘Brexit special’.

If you’re feeling referendumed-out, by the way, don’t miss Luke Cahill (PhD, POLIS) contribution to ‘Beyond Brexit, the world’s still turning: global stories you might have missed’.

Lightbulb moments, tackling cancer and social death

In among everything else, three other significant articles were published in June including Dr Momna Hejmadi’s (Cancer Research at Bath, Department of Biology & Biochemistry) ‘Why do some cancers suddenly disappear?’, Professor Alison Walker’s (Department of Physics) ‘Why you should get ready to say goodbye to the humble lightbulb’ and Jana Králová’s (PhD, Centre for Death & Society, Department of Social & Policy Sciences) ‘Why we need to find a cure for ‘social death’.

Momna’s article was republished across the world, including in the New Zealand Herald and has so far reached over 160,000 people. Alison’s article – timed to coincide with the announcement of new Horizon 2020 funding - has seen wide coverage with 33,310 reads and also been republished on the influential World Economic Forum – Agenda. Jana’s article complements her recent entry for our Images of Research competition ‘In loving memory…’.

Start writing for The Conversation

If you’re interested in joining the 182 academics and PhDs from around the University who have already written for The Conversation please do get in touch with me via .


Rain couldn’t stop play at water-themed Festival of Nature

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📥  50th anniversary, Event

Apocalyptic downpours could not deter nearly 2,000 visitors who came to Festival of Nature events in Bath last weekend to interact with researchers from our Milner Centre for Evolution and Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT).

Professor Jonathan Knight speaking at the Festival of Nature launch event in The Colonnades, Bath.

Professor Jonathan Knight speaking at the Festival of Nature launch event in The Colonnades, Bath.

The Festival – the UK’s largest free celebration of the natural world – is organised through the Bristol Natural History Consortium and has been running since 2003. This year marks the first time the festival has taken in the region's waterscapes, with events running between Bristol and Bath along the River Avon.

Although we’ve been involved in the Festival for the past two years, as first time sponsors this year, the event in Bath gave us an opportunity to showcase some of our work to the local community and also acted as one of the first events for our 50th anniversary celebrations. Activities in Bath this weekend provided the grand finale for two weeks of river-themed activities that took place in June.

Researchers from the Milner Centre for Evolution demonstrate interact with attendees at the Festival of Nature in Bath.

Researchers from the Milner Centre for Evolution demonstrate interact with attendees at the Festival of Nature in Bath.

Saturday’s event, which took place in Royal Victoria Park, involved researchers from CSCT who used hands-on demonstrations to talk to visitors about climate change, water purification and making polymers from renewable sources. Others performed stand-up and took engineering out on the streets with a new form of busking –‘buskineering’.

Elsewhere researchers from the Milner Centre for Evolution spoke to festival goers about evolution through interactive games and demonstrations with opportunities to analyse fossils.

We’re greatly looking forward to working closely with Festival of Nature ahead of next year’s event in 2017.

Find out more about the Festival at