Marketing in Science and the Research World

Marketing – the act of shaping the ideas or desires of a population to the desire of the marketer.

Science – the collective process and knowledge of describing how the world works and how to harness it for the advancement of society.

Some say marketing amounts to brain-washing, manipulating the buying habits of consumers to fulfill the goal of making profit for a company.  Many consider Science to be a linear, established collection of facts created and assembled by scientists, who have the freedom to explore and bring new discoveries to light.  In all my academic experiences, through the Bachelor’s, the Master’s the PhD, in scientific conferences on biomedical and smart material topics, I have heard el-zipppo concerning one of the most important topics of modern science – how to market it all.

The warm, cozy idealization of science is that scientists have total freedom (within ethical boundaries) to make scientific discoveries, share that knowledge with the world, and contribute to making society a better place by understanding the natural laws that govern our world.

But how is this done?

First off, science requires money.  You need resources to do science: laboratory, workers, computers, raw materials, etc.  Where does the money come from?  The money to do science comes from public and private sources.  Public means the government gives money to scientists.  In the US organizations like the NIH and NSF distribute millions every year to scientists in research institutions (like universities) to do science, make discoveries, advance society.

But who gets what?

The funding request is where the marketing starts to become important.  If your idea isn’t well marketed and clearly described, no one will give you money.  Ideal marketing buzz words change throughout the years, currently some of the best include various combinations of biomedical and nano-technology.

The committees distribute money based on their assumptions and idealization of what is good science.  Those projects get funded.  Others are ignored.  If you want money, you need to ask for it.  Generally this entails writing up a funding request, an application, explaining what the money is for and why your project is so important as to get funded.  A committee reviews that request and gives you the money.  Well, if you’re a university researcher, the university gets that money, then they will no doubt take something like half of it because the university – of course, is first and foremost, a commercial entity (secondary a learning institution).  I wouldn’t say this is such a bad thing, but in general it’s not really understood.  In some ways it’s disingenuous to write up grant proposal and submitting it without full disclosure of how much money will actually be used for research purposes and how much will be taken by the university.

If you’re a research who is dependent on public or private funding, and this description covers, well, probably almost every researcher in the world, it’s important to educate yourself on proper marketing practices.  If you’re not marketing yourself and your research well, then the exposure you receive in the academic and research communities may be very small.  Good marketing could be as simple as setting up a website with clear descriptions of your research work and contact information.  Communicate your ideas and work to a large body of people and increase your ability to work with others in your field and remain open to new avenues and research directions.