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Communicating Science Effectively: A Practical Handbook for Integrating Visual Elements Permanent Link

Thomas JE, Saxby TA, Jones AB, Carruthers TJB, Abal EG and Dennison WC

IWA Publishing, London

This is a practical handbook on how to communicate science effectively. The first part is an introduction to the principles of science communication – what effective science communication is, why it is important, and how to do it. The principles in these chapters include how effective science communication can change societal paradigms and make one a better scientist. General principles relating to all science communication products include providing synthesis, visualisation, and context, assembling self-contained visual elements such as photos, maps, conceptual diagrams and data, formatting content to define and simplify terms, and eliminating jargon and acronyms. Formatting of these visual elements is also discussed.

This introduction is followed by chapters outlining techniques and principles for communicating in different media – desktop publishing (including posters and newsletters), presentations and websites. Techniques in these chapters include image, colour, and font formats, resolution and design tips for different media.

Finally, a case study is presented to illustrate how effective science communication has become an integral part of a successful environmental science, monitoring, planning, and implementation program.

The book is accompanied by extensive internet resources, including interactive software tutorials for the different software programs commonly used in communication, discussion forums for science communication issues, and links to other websites of interest.

This book will be a valuable resource for scientists, working in government, research, management agencies, and education. Although environmental scientists are the primary audience, the principles and techniques discussed are applicable to scientists from all fields.

Hurricane Isabel in Perspective: Proceedings of a Conference Permanent Link

Chesapeake Research Consortium

The Hurricane Isabel in Perspective: Proceedings of a Conference volume documents the proceedings of a conference convened 15-17 November, 2004. The Hurricane Isabel in Perspective conference was organized as a venue for the lessons learned from Hurricane Isabel, which visited the Chesapeake Bay region in September 2003. Planners, scientists, emergency responders, and academics alike agreed that the numerous lessons learned from Hurricane Isabel will greatly assist our society’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the next major storm event. The presentation of these lessons forms the contents of this proceedings volume.

Healthy Waterways, Healthy Catchments Permanent Link

Abal EG, Bunn SE and Dennison WC

Moreton Bay Waterways and Catchments Partnership

This book was the fourth in a series of publications in support of the Heathy Waterways campaign in Southeast Queensland, Australia. It synthesizes the scientific investigations focused on the catchments and waterways of the Southeast Queensland region. Chapters on the setting, habitats, sediments, nutrients, monitoring, modeling, harmful algal blooms integrate the various scientific studies occurring in the region. It used a graphic-rich format with extensive use of conceptual diagrams, maps, photographs, figures and tables to communicate scientific results.

Where river meets sea: exploring Australia's estuaries Permanent Link

Turner L, Tracey D, Tilden J and Dennison WC

CSIRO Publishing

This 288-page book utilizes conceptual diagrams (including symbols from the IAN symbol libraries) to describe the health, geography, science, management and ecological functions of Australia's 974 estuaries. Chapters on natural history, coastal science and management give an understanding of our vast network of pristine and heavily modified estuaries - from isolated tide-dominated estuaries in Australia's tropical north to those shaped by waves in southern, temperate waters.

Discover the waterways of South East Queensland Permanent Link

South East Queensland Regional Watet Quality Management Strategy

This book was the third in a series of publications in support of the Healthy Waterways campaign in Southeast Queensland, Australia. It provides a guide for citizens to view various features of the waterways from specified vantage points. Grounded in the scientific understanding developed for the region, this book is an invitation to 'see it for yourself'. The book includes maps, conceptual diagrams, photos and 'catchment comments' from community leaders.

Moreton Bay Study Permanent Link

A Scientific Basis for the Healthy Waterways Campaign

Dennison WC and Abal EG

South East Queensland Regional Water Quality Management Strategy Team

This book was the second in a series of publications in support of the Healthy Waterways Campaign in Southeast Queensland, Australia. It synthesizes the scientific investigations of Moreton Bay from 17 different studies of the physics, chemistry, geology biology and ecology in the region. It also provided management, research and monitoring recommendations based on the scientific conclusions. It used the graphic-rich format with extensive use of conceptual diagrams, maps, photographs, figures and tables to communicate scientific results.

Moreton Bay and Catchment Permanent Link

Tibbetts IR, Narelle JH and Dennison WC (Editors)

School of Marine Science, The University of Queensland

This book is the proceedings of the Moreton Bay and Catchment conference. It is divided into nine major sections covering the environmental history of the region, geology and geomorphology, catchment rivers and lakes, water quality, marine plants, marine animals, corals, flood effects and management options. The conference was preceded by a relatively small flood, which served as an opportunity to study the impact of flood events on Moreton Bay. This flood also stimulated the first field research of the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay Wastewater Management Study. This book captures the state of knowledge across a wide range of issues and serves as a summary of the history of research in the region.

The crew member's guide to the health of our waterways Permanent Link

Moreton Bay Catchment Water Quality Management Strategy Team

This book was the first in a series of publications in support of the Healthy Waterways campaign in Southeast Queensland, Australia. It provides a broad overview of Moreton Bay and its major tributaries, includes the first ecosystem report card for the region, and features 'catchment comments', personalized reflections from various community members and elected officials. A graphic-rich format with a small page size employed in the 'Crew Guide' became a trademark design feature for  subsequent publications.

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Understanding the Eastern Caribbean and the Antilles Permanent Link

Nelson Marshall

In this book, the author takes the reader on a delightful natural history tour of the beautiful islands in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. A well traveled natural historian, Professor Marshall unveils a variety of interesting and well communicated vignettes about Caribbean natural history. This book should provide readers with an appreciation of the natural history wonders of the Caribbean region and allow them to become transformed into travelers with an eye for the world around them.

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"Writing crystallizes thought and thought produces action." Paul J. Meyer


A goal of IAN Press is to empower scientists to directly communicate their ideas and concepts. Publications from IAN Press are designed to transform the uninterested to interested; the interested to involved and the involved to engaged.

IAN Press products are designed to be examples of good science communication principles, and the hope is that others will employ these principles so that scientific understanding can be disseminated widely as possible. The production of IAN Press communication publications involves experimentation with communication techniques and, as such, provides various ideas for science communication that can be emulated.

The comparisons and contrasts that IAN Press provides on environmental subjects intend to stimulate scientists, managers, practitioners, policy makers, students and other readers to think more broadly and expansively about the region and issues that they face. The extensive use of visual elements accesses a broader cultural diversity as well, which allow for more global perspectives.

The conclusions and recommendations presented in IAN Press publications are crafted to empower actions, plant seeds of ideas and provide justification for people to take appropriate action to find solutions to environmental problems. The conclusions are made as explicit as possible by employing active titles and featuring them prominently (e.g., front section of books or back cover of newsletters).

On costs

IAN Press does not provide author royalties and the design and layout of the publications conducted by a talented team of Science Communicators is underwritten by various grants and contracts. Marketing is limited to the internet and word-of-mouth, also reducing costs. Thus, the price of IAN Press publications is solely to reimburse the actual printing costs entailed. The intent is to provide the broadest possible readership, thus keeping costs as low as possible is paramount. Typically, full color is used, virtually on every page, which does increase print costs, however, the use of color is a key element in providing accessible information to a wide audience and the lack of author royalties or design/layout charges.

Peer review

IAN Press undertakes a rigorous review process by both peer scientists and resource managers. In addition, Integration and Application Network Science Integrators and Science Communicators read, edit and review all aspects of IAN Press publications, including text, conceptual diagrams, photographs, maps, figures and tables. Many IAN Press publications are multi-authored, and each author contributes to the review and editing of the entire publication. This is not the classical peer review system of a limited number of anonymous reviewers working with an editor to recommend changes, rather a larger number of non-anonymous reviewers that develop consensus on each word, visual element and recommendation. The review process is often accelerated by IAN Press to accommodate timely publication.


IAN Press attempts to be as authorship inclusive as possible and to provide attribution to each visual element. Authorship is not ranked or ordered, and the credibility of the IAN Press product should be based on the scientific data presented and the collective effort of a multiple of contributors, both with and without formal academic training.

Science Communicators are the key element in the production of IAN Press documents. They design the layout of the document, obtain and edit the visual elements, designate the amount and style of text, and orchestrate the review and editing process. IAN Press documents are produced using a 'storyboard' approach, in which the central message(s) are identified and various visual elements selected to support the central message(s). This is in contrast to the more traditional method of writing text and adding in visuals subsequently. In video and film production, storyboards are used and the producer is key to assembling the visual elements. Science Communicators serve in an equivalent role in terms of assembling all the pieces that go into the publication.


IAN Press relies extensively on color for photographs, maps, conceptual diagrams, figures and even text and tables to a limited degree. The use of color allows for an increased data density and provides a bigger visual impact considering the amount of the human brain devoted to visual discrimination of colors. Color allows for greater discrimination of visual elements and in data presentation, a closer juxtaposition of different elements and greater comparative utility. The preponderance of color printers and the ability of electronic versions to be displayed in color promote the inexpensive dissemination of full color documents. In order to help color-blind people compensate, an effort is made to provide other visual clues in graphics, such as symbols with different shapes or map delineations with different shading or texture, but some of the visual impact will be compromised.


IAN Press does not target a narrow, specific audience, rather attempts to be as inclusive as possible. As the world becomes more specialized, with marketing forces that promote highly targeted advertising campaigns, IAN Press products attempt to reach the broadest audience possible. IAN Press attempts to raise the bar rather than dumb down the message by using non-technical language, defining all terms and reducing acronym use. By providing synthesis, visualizations and context, we feel that relatively sophisticated concepts can be grasped by a non-technical audience. In fact, science has become highly specialized and often the language, tools and approaches used in various scientific disciplines are relatively incomprehensible to specialists in other disciplines. Thus, one audience of IAN Press is scientists from other specialties to encourage inter-disciplinary thinking and approaches.

Why use print media?

With the growing popularity of electronic media, the carbon footprint involved in producing and distributing paper products, and the ability to provide infinite resources via the web, it could be argued that IAN Press should disseminate entirely via electronic means. While IAN Press provides downloadable, web accessible materials, IAN Press continues to produces written products for the following reasons:

  1. There is rigor and discipline required in producing science communication products that have limited 'real estate', that, is limited amounts of space to convey a message. A paper product maintains focus, while web links can lead to tangential issues. The priority setting required to establish the final layout and include various communication elements is important in conveying information. Fixed 'real estate' forces condensation, synthesis and integration. Every visual element is uniquely created for the purpose of conveying the specific information intended, rather than repurposed from other sources.
  2. The written product invites non-linear reading, and a quick scan allows readers to delve into the visual elements most interesting to them. If a reader is most attracted to photographs, maps, conceptual diagrams, or figures, they can migrate to these elements and the figure legends should be self explanatory. Alternatively, if reading text is the preferred way of obtaining information, the text is designed to be self sufficient. The juxtaposition of text and various visual elements also conveys important information, something that can be lost via hyperlinks on the web. In addition, electronic books with the current technology do not support color graphics.
  3. Since various IAN Press products are intended to inform a broad community from policy makers to the general public, the weight of scientific support that can be marshaled can be a factor in empowering people to action. In order to make an impact, the difference between hundreds of web pages and hundreds of printed pages is one reason to provide print versions of IAN products. In addition, internet access is not equally applied globally or socially, and in some societies and sectors of society, a written product provides a more accessible source, particularly through libraries and schools.
  4. Printed materials provide a 'time stamp', a fixed point of time when the data are assembled and the conclusions are reached. Rather than constantly updating the data and conclusions, drawing the line in the sand as to what is known at a particular time point is what printed products do. The shelf life of science communication products should be somewhat limited due to the increased scientific understanding based on ongoing research, yet the record of what is known, and when it is known, provides an important archival body of information.
  5. "The product drives the collaborative process"; in that the science communication product forces an intensely collaborative process of obtaining and refining visual elements, drafting and editing text, and experimenting with layout and design. While this collaborative process can be conducted with the production of web materials, print deadlines are a good way to insure timely delivery. In addition, to obtain buy-in from many scientists whose training and experience are in producing printed papers and books, printed copies are often necessary.