Looking to bring more value to its non-scientist members and the general public, the American Association for the Advancement of Science recently launched Science on Tap, a newsletter that curates the week’s scientific news in an easy-to-digest format.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science launched an e-newsletter last week that boldly goes to an audience where none of its newsletters have gone before: to its members who are supporters of science, but not scientists.
“We had launched a new membership type, called the Science Advocate, back in December 2016,” said Joanne Heininger, AAAS director of member experience and engagement. “It was really designed for people who are not professional scientists and don’t work in science every day.”
AAAS realized that one benefit scientist members raved about—the journal Science—was not as useful to advocate members. The journal is written in scientific jargon and filled with data tables and charts that are crucial to scientists, but often over the head of lay readers.
The organization’s leadership met to figure out how to bring value to its Science Advocate members and came up with Science on Tap. The mobile-friendly e-newsletter is designed to be a quick hit of science news, which is written in plain language and can be read in 10 minutes or less.
Heininger, who came from a corporate background, believed in the importance of testing various aspects of products before rolling them out. To that end, AAAS enlisted the help of a naming consultant. “If you looked at the word ‘Tap’ in the [newsletter] name, you might have thought, ‘Hmm, what’s the deal with that?’” she said. “It’s all about tapping on your phone to get the information you need.”
They also tested it with advocate members and the general public. AAAS even took prototypes to Awesome Con, an annual convention covering fandoms that run the gamut from Star Trek to Harry Potter.
“We were trying to talk to people who were the general public and interested in science,” Heininger said. “You have to go to where they are …”
AAAS tested several prototypes of the newsletter before launching, and one clear theme recurred: “Even when they hated the format, they still really liked the idea and what we were doing. It really validated our moving forward with the product,” Heininger said.
Emileigh Clare, assistant director of member engagement, added that the newsletter has gotten a lot of positive feedback since its launch. “At the bottom of the newsletter, there is a fun little poll where you can give a thumbs up or thumbs down, if you like the newsletter,” she said. “Most of the subscribers that interacted with it gave us a thumbs up. That is a fun way to get some initial feedback.”
While the weekly newsletter is geared toward Science Advocate members, nonmembers can sign up for it as well. Heininger views Science on Tap as a way to broaden the organization’s reach.
“This is very much geared toward our members and giving them a new benefit. It is also a way to educate other people about what our organization does,” she said. “It becomes another way of educating about the value of our organization and the ability to get information from us about science.”