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The skills Explaining Research teaches will enhance your scientific as well as your lay-level communications. For example, you will learn to produce effective images, video, and animations for your scientific papers—necessary now that they are no longer merely "papers" but multimedia communications.

What's more, skill at broadly explaining your work serves your scientific communications, because there is a new style of scientific discourse, argues Bora Zivkovic, who is online community manager at PLoS ONE. This online journal exemplifies the new public, iterative style in scientific publication. It allows annotated comments, discussions, and ratings of papers by both scientists and nonscientists. Such interactivity means that researchers will need to explain their findings to broader audiences and to demonstrate the significance of those findings in the online discussion those findings evoke, says Zivkovic.

"If you write very, very dense scientese, three other people on the globe can even understand what you wrote, and they will maybe write a comment and maybe they won't," notes Zivkovic. "So you want to draw people in who maybe are not in your narrow area of expertise. You want to draw in bloggers; you want to draw educated laymen to read your paper and comment on it." Thus, he says, researchers must make the titles of their papers more broadly understandable, and they must more explicitly and clearly place their work in the context of the field.

The Web site ResearchBlogging.org represents a good example of the new interactive model for scientific publication. The site aggregates blog posts on peer-reviewed articles, offering science journalists and the public an independent assessment of scientific articles.

(Next: You Need to Master New Teaching Tools)