Let's face it, scientific progress relies, in part, on effective science communication and increasingly, this requires an online skillset.
But mastering the art of online SciComm can take time away from your important research. So we've collated our top 10 all-time favourite online tools to help you level-up your SciComm game and boost your productivity. Add some of these to your virtual toolkit and Unleash Your Impact!
Creating SciComm visuals (e.g. posters, presentations, graphical abstracts, etc.):
Icons are an invaluable way to communicate succinctly, but they are time-consuming to create yourself even if you have the requisite design skills. Autodraw is a wonderful online tool that helps to create icons quickly and easily.
Simply draw a rough outline of the object you want and the powerful Google AI spits out possible objects that look like your drawing. Click on the object you want and your *rough* drawing turns into a beautiful icon. Tadaaaa!!!
This is a very useful tool when you want to create simple and clear illustrations.
#2 Color Hunt
Need a colour scheme for your poster/presentation/graphic? Don’t get stuck using the default colours of Powerpoint. Instead, head to Color Hunt: a free and open-sourced platform providing hundreds of colour palettes to choose from. Find the one you like and then use the hexadecimal number (e.g. #FFAAA5) to recreate the same colour.
For more hints on choosing colour palettes for posters or graphical abstracts head to our blog post ‘How to Design an Award-Winning Conference Poster’.
#3 Remove background
Have you ever found the perfect image to use, but when you put it on your slide with a coloured background you find out that it has that annoying white box around it? It usually ruins the image you were trying to create.
Well, we have the perfect fix for you! Head to removebg: the website that allows you to upload any image and automatically removes its background.
You can then download the edited image and now it fits perfectly on your coloured background. So simple, so handy.
#4 Free images
You need images. But unless you moonlight as a professional photographer, having high-quality photos means hunting for them online.
Luckily there are a host of image websites now available, many of them free, for you to download images to use for whatever purpose you need. Pixabay, VectorStock, Unsplash and Vecteezy are our top go-to's.
Online science communication:
#5 Bit.ly link creator
Most people have heard of bitly by now, but it really is one of the most powerful and convenient tools for online communication, especially for platforms like Twitter that have a character limit.
With bitly, you can copy any URL and paste it into their website and a shortened URL will be produced, usually consisting of less than 15 characters. If you make a free profile with them, you can also tailor the end of the bitly URL to whatever you like. This means that even if you’re not restricted to a character limit, you can use bitly for other convenient reasons, such as having a URL that makes it easier and memorable for people to search.
Another plus: if you create an account with bitly you can track how many times the link is clicked on, so you know how well your link is engaging with people!
#6 Image resizer
Almost every social media platform has different requirements for image sizes, which means if you post a photo without taking this into account, your image could be cropped and not show the message you had intended.
Keeping on top of this can be a lot of work, especially if you are posting across many social media accounts. Promo (a social media marketing tool) now has an Image Resizer for social media purposes.
Simply upload the image you want to share and choose one of the resizing options for nine types of online platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube. You can edit the way the image is cropped and then download it ready for sharing - how convenient!
#7 Work appropriate gifs
So, we all love a good gif, but Startup Gifs have taken it that one step further and produced libraries of gifs to use specifically in work situations. You can add these gifs to emails, work chats, social media: any time you need both a professional and relatable touch.
Give it a go and see how much your workmates love it!
LastPass sits in between the 'productivity' and 'online communication' categories. This tool stores all of your passwords and functions as an internet browser plugin or an app you can download.
The reason we’ve added this to the productivity group is, well, we all know how many times we’ve forgotten a password and tried several before going through the gruelling task of creating a new one (and then how long 'til you forget it again?). With LastPass you will never again waste that time.
LastPass is also a great collaboration tool, especially if you have a team you’re working with and you want them to have access something you have set up. But usually, you don’t want to share your password with them, because let’s be honest, it’s probably the same password you use for everything. LastPass allows others to use your login details without revealing your password. This is perfect for lab heads who constantly have students coming and going. This way, you won’t need to worry about changing your passwords ever again. So handy!
#9 The most dangerous writing app
Our online community went crazy when we shared this app. The most dangerous writing app by Squibler forces you to overcome the most difficult challenge when writing: simply starting. This online application prompts you to write for 5 minutes straight. If you pause your writing, the words on the screen will start to turn red and if you don’t start writing again, all of your words will disappear. If you make it to 5 minutes you have the opportunity to either keep going or save your writing. Are you willing to give it a go?
#10 Focus app
Speaking of focus, there are many apps now that help with just that. A free app you can download is called Flora: Focus Habit Tracker, this app gets you to plant a seed that takes 25 minutes to grow. The catch is that during this time, you cannot touch your phone. If you can successfully refrain, then your plant will sprout into a forest and the more of these 25-minute focused sessions you complete, the more your forest grows. However, if you do touch your phone, the plant will die, and you have to start again!
This focus app stems from the Pomodoro technique, which is a time management technique meant to maximise your productivity. With this technique, you work solidly for 25 minutes (usually setting a timer), after the 25 mins (or one Pomodoro) you take a 5-minute break. After 4 Pomodoros you can take a 30-minute break. Try it and see how your productivity increases!
Do you have any ‘must use’ online tools to share? Tag us on Twitter (@Animate_Science) or Instagram (@animate_your_science) – we’d love to hear from you.