The ACS Style Guide has always been a classic manual for scientific publications. But in 2020 it was revised and expanded as ACS Guide to Scientific Communication.The ACS Guide to Scientific Communication Not only does it provide professional advice to students, researchers, educators, and librarians, but it also helps researchers at different stages of their careers respond to the evolving world of publishing.

These ACS Axial Series contains excerpts from the ACS Guide to Scientific Communication. Portions of the original text are available free of charge for a limited time under an ACS Free to Read license. Certain sections are given at the end of each post.

Dissemination of science to decision makers

At some point in their careers, many academics have to explain their research findings or share their findings with an audience of policymakers, professionals, and business leaders. Two considerations dominate the communication considerations with this group. First, they may not share your expertise in your field. Therefore, the language you use must be geared towards a more general level of knowledge and should be free of jargon or shorthand. Second, decision makers are usually busy people who are used to hearing results and recommendations first. The discussion of evidence and litigation comes second.

Grant proposals

A proposal is a description of the prospective research or grant that is intended to secure funding or permission to carry out the work. The funding or licensing agency will provide details of the expected content, format and length of such a document. Proposals require a detailed goal, a thorough literature review of related work, a detailed description of the methods and activities, a schedule, and an accounting of how the human or financial resources will be used.

Like many other scientific documents, a proposal must contain creative ideas, but also a reasonable, achievable plan for carrying out the project. The text must describe how the research questions are dealt with, with logical and consistent arguments. The reviewers (or administrators) need to understand what is being done, how this is accomplished, and whether the applicant has the resources to do (or can purchase) the work. The challenge is to match creative ideas with the prose (and imagery) that warrant the permission or resources that are given. Appropriate rhetoric and attention to detail are necessary. Reviewers may have a high opinion of the idea, but the proposal will only be successful if the details and description are appropriate.

Most proposal authors are challenged or even struggling to adhere to word or page restrictions. Those soliciting the proposals must consider their review process and the time and human resources required to review the proposals. Setting a cap gives all applicants an equal opportunity and protects those who would seek the proposals from inappropriate proposals.

Watch this video to write a funding proposal:

Technical reports

A technical report provides information in a formal but easily accessible form. The format is often very precise. The sections are defined in a template that ensures that all components are covered, that individual sections can be easily identified, and that the components are consistent from one report to a similar report used in the same organization. Like an article, a technical report is scientific, with an introduction and background backed by references and a bibliography. Although the focus is often on the results or outcomes (which are either formative or summative), other information may be required. Reports are often produced as an assessment or assessment of ongoing projects and to support further funding from a grant or organization. Some of these reports will be made available to the public, others will only be made available to a smaller group.

For more information on communicating science to decision-makers, see section 1.1.3 of the ACS Guide to Scientific Communication.

Communicating science to the public

As with communicating with decision makers, communication aimed at a public audience places great emphasis on brevity, clarity, and careful attention to explaining concepts in terms that can be understood by a non-scientist.

Interviews / speeches in public

The exact type of interview or invitation to speak to the public will depend on the occasion and the circumstances. Public speaking is used to present information to the public or to a group whose knowledge of the content may be limited. The speaker should know if the audience is novice or specialist.

Interviews can be difficult. In some cases, respondents are given a list of prepared questions beforehand, but this is not always the case. The interviews are interactive and the person conducting them is likely to ask for clarification or additional information. The respondent should prepare for this by anticipating questions and reviewing the content covered. In an interview, it is important to point out important points precisely and directly. The more discursive the respondent, the less likely it is that the end result will clearly reflect their points.

Communication through social media

The dissemination of information on the Internet offers access to “factual” content, but also to opinions or comments from authors on practically any topic. Communication on social media is mostly related to networking, marketing itself, and job search. With the explosion in social media over the past decade, this cannot be ignored. At the same time, communication on these websites must be handled carefully.


The social network for professionals LinkedIn can help scientists connect with their peers and develop their own communities through the umbrella LinkedIn Website and through LinkedIn Groups for specific scientific disciplines such as the Life Sciences Network. In addition to developing a profile for the website, LinkedIn Allows users to post professional information about themselves (i.e. a portfolio), including links to articles and presentations. LinkedIn is often used by employers or recruiters looking for suitable candidates for positions. The tools enable a LinkedIn Users to see a history of who has accessed their profiles and to set notifications for various site activity.

Communication by video

Videos promote learning and understanding, but also enable instant and asynchronous access. They can be used to archive a presentation or to allow an author to summarize the highlights from an article or book chapter. Inexpensive or free commercial software is available that allows you to add images to a timeline, annotate them, and then provide the audio portion using voice-over tools. Of course, a video can be recorded in real time and made available later.

Video delivery sites are free and accessible and include tools for playback. Indeed, many formats are automatically supported in web browsers. One limitation of videos is the size of the files, especially if the writers want to keep them very high quality. The best known video providers are YouTube and Vimeo. Users can publish their material for free and make it accessible through private or public channels. With the former, only potential viewers who have an access code can view the videos. In this model, the two providers monetize their business activities by placing ads. Magazines and publishers also provide access to films and videos, usually through supplementary information. These usually have size restrictions and require certain formats.

For more information on communicating science to the public, see Section 1.1.4 of the ACS Guide to Scientific Communication.


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