[My recent post about the marketing of science and scientists lead to a longer discussion on facebook. I offered Marc Kuchner, author of the mentioned book "Marketing for Scientists" a place to present his point of view here. My questions are marked with B, his replies with M.]
B: Who is your book aimed at and why should they read it?
M: Most of my readers are postdocs and graduate students, but Marketing for Scientists is for anyone with a scientific bent who is interested in learning the techniques of modern marketing.
B: You are marketing marketing for scientists as a service to others. I like that and have to say this was the main reason I read your book. Can you expand?
M: I think scientists need better tools to compete today in the marketplace of ideas. Only one out of ten American adults can correctly describe what a "molecule" is. But everybody knows who Sarah Palin is. The climate change deniers understand marketing perfectly well.
B: The point of tenure is to free researchers from the need to serve others and allow them to follow their interests without being influenced by peer pressure, public pressure or financial pressure. I think this is essential for unbiased judgement and that marketing, regardless of whether you call it a service to others, negatively affects scientific objectivity and renders the process of knowledge discovery inefficient. Your advice is good advice for the individual but bad advice for the community. What do you have to say in your defense?
Our community already uses marketing. Every proposal you submit, every scientific paper you write, and every presentation you give is a piece of marketing. But sometimes we scientists aren’t clear with ourselves that we are in fact marketing our work. We call it “networking” or “communication” or “grantsmanship” or what have you, hiding the true nature of our efforts. So first I like to peel back the taboos, take off the white gloves and take an honest look at the marketing we scientists already do.
Then I want every scientist to learn how to do it better—to learn how to use the latest and greatest marketing techniques. If you picture our community as competing only with each other for a fixed slice of the pie then of course you could get the impression that there’s nothing to be gained by improving our marketing savvy. But the science pie is not fixed. In America, it’s shrinking! We scientists need to update our marketing skills to widen the impact of science as a whole. That’s good for the whole community.
B: I am afraid that marketing and advertising will erode the public's trust in science and scientists and that this is already happening. Do you not share my concerns?
Indeed, nobody likes billboards and commercials. But the practice of marketing has changed since the era of Mad Men. I try to teach scientists how modern marketing means co-creating with the customer, being receptive to feedback, and being open and honest. Those are values that scientists have always had, values that build trust in today’s new companies (think Google, Apple, TOMS shoes). These values can help rebuild the public’s trust in science.
B: Are you available for seminars and how can people reach you?
Thanks, Sabine! For more information about the Marketing for Scientists book and the Marketing for Scientists workshops, go to www.marketingforscientists.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org