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A few days ago, I got an invitation to write an article in layman's terms about my recently published research.

The "small outreach journal" is called The Science Breaker. They are a "non-profit publisher that highlights lay-summaries of scientific papers authored by the very same scientists who did the original research". They are associated with the University of Geneva in Switzerland and are diamond open access.

They don't charge any fees etc. I was wondering if there are any downsides to accepting the invitation or if someone has some experience with them? I cannot find anything negative so far and at least it would be some good practice.

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    One downside is of course that writing that article will cost you time, time you could be spending doing research, writing "real" papers, or having fun. (Then again, some outreach may look better on your CV than yet another "real" paper, so the trade-off may be worthwhile.) Oct 26 at 9:35
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    You might read a few articles to see what they are like. If you enjoy them, consider how much work would go into writing a similar quality article.
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 26 at 16:53
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    I'm getting these invitations all the time. Most are by "non-profit publishers", but really their business model is to charge money for creating glossy articles. Oct 26 at 18:42

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I think that this sort of thing feels exploitative. You, a subject matter expert, provide a free, high-quality article for a publisher. In return you get... nothing really. The opportunity cost is high since this takes time away from doing research or writing a proper manuscript. And the payoff is suspect. You may get some exposure (though doing things for "the exposure" is literally a joke). But even that depends on the journal/website that the article is going on - is it exposure that you care about? There are easier ways to do outreach.

I'm not familiar with The Science Breaker though - it looks interesting and there is nothing that suggests it is predatory. But something feels off. They are piggybacking off of the traditionally one-sided academic publication industry and hoping that no-one questions the free labor they are asking for.

If it's something you are personally interested in and you have some free time on your hands, I don't think there is any risk in writing an article for them. There is probably something more productive for you to be doing though.

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The immediate downside is that you will spend time on something that very few people might read, without being beneficial for your CV. Granted, some might say that outreach is good for your CV but nothing trumps actual papers.

Another potential downside is giving credit and content to a venue that might be simply making money from your free labor - a predatory venue. In this case, I haven’t heard about this specific website so this might not apply here!

More generally, I’d instead recommend telling the general public about your work via social media (e.g. Mastodon). That is definitely a good writing exercise, likely to reach many people, but on your own terms (or, you could write a blog).

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I get two or three of those emails a week, and they all sound suspiciously similar. Neither I nor my work are significant enough to merit one press release a week; I don't really want to know what their business model aims to be, but I can't imagine it's anything good and I don't want to be a part of it.

The true significance of my work will be in whether other scientists adopt it. In turn, my work will only be adopted by other scientists if it is consistent enough to handle their varied use cases, simple enough that they are confident of using it correctly, and useful enough in giving new results that they are willing to spend the time using it. The only real shortcuts in this process are presenting your work in the usual forums: conferences, to supervisors' collaborators, and then sometimes using well-targeted social networks (like ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Mastodon, and various deep pockets of $\mathbb{X}$).

Outreach to other audiences, who have their own specialties, about the specifics of your research, isn't really that useful in comparison. It will come naturally once your work is scientifically significant. (Of course, if your work directly leads to policy recommendations -- such as in climate science, public health, or ecology -- then public engagement is highly valuable.)

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  • It is actually the latter. My research is highly relevant for society and policymakers. Oct 28 at 11:03
  • Then you should work with your university or institute's press department. They will have plenty of locally relevant experience. Oct 28 at 23:20
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My field is not in the hard sciences, so this will be somewhat different. It is, I think, helpful as a recommendation since The Science Break seems to present themselves as a new ideal cooperation of science and society. That kind of idealism and outreach is, of course, debatable. However, it is common in my field. I would consider contributing to them. They seem to be an interesting and interested venue. If you are ever interested in working in teaching-orientated institutions or if your work is the kind that is inherently of more interest to public engagement, then this sort of outreach may even be of benefit on your CV. This does not mean, however, that you should take the time to write if you are fully booked for your own research--so that you would be sacrificing your main object in working with Science Break. If you can teach people, have the time to teach people, and have a non-predatory opportunity to teach people, why not teach people? Good luck with either decision and your work!

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