Robots are leaving research labs and entering our daily lives. With this transition comes public interest in how robots will change the way we work, live, and explore new frontiers. Questions about robots and jobs, or privacy, are often discussed and sensationalized in popular media.
Experts in robotics are the best positioned to answer these questions and drive the discussion. By using online science communication tools such as social media, roboticists can explain the importance of tax-funded research, inspire younger generations, raise societal questions, spur innovation and facilitate technology transfer to startups and industry.
Unfortunately, roboticists have been slow to engage with the public. Many researchers do not know how to use new science communication tools, and their use is not encouraged by peers. In addition, it often takes years to build a following online that makes it worth while.
With this project we aim to remove these barriers by engaging with main stakeholders in robotics including funding agencies, institutions, and non-profits. We will simplify science communication by providing basic training and giving access to a large audience via our online platform Robohub.org and connections with mainstream media. In the long term, we aim to empower researchers in other fields of emerging technology to connect with the public.
What is special about the project?
This is an entirely new approach to science communication. Rather than roboticists issuing press releases written by third parties, we empower them to communicate directly with the public. This leads to the experts being at the center of discussions on latest research, policy, and business. Our online platforms are more than news site; we are a community, and a forum for knowledge-sharing, discussion, and debate. Our strategy is built from the ground up by a team of researchers and science communicators in robotics who were directly concerned by the impact of conventional science communication strategies on the public perception of their work. There was a clear gap between the way researchers do science communication and the quick evolution of online communication and social media. This project helps bridge this gap.
Robohub has positioned itself as the key leader in driving communication in robotics. This was validated by an invitation from Nature to contribute a commentary on this topic (http://bit.ly/1Gvnu55
) as well as our reader survey, which showed that 98.5% of respondents judged Robohub as comparable to or better than other robotics/tech blogs when it comes to expert opinions. Over 3000 webpages have linked to Robohub content in the past year, including mainstream media such as National Geographic and the BBC. We have grown our team and following to around 80’000 unique monthly visitors, 8000 followers on twitter, 4000 followers on facebook, and 800’000 on google+. Our yearly post on “25 Women in Robotics You Need to Know About” was widely relayed on social media (5000+ shares). We cross-post content from key partners including the National Centre of Competence in Robotics, ETH Zurich, the European Commission, MIT, and Harvard. Robohub has also gained visibility at important conferences in robotics where we organise crash-courses on science communication and are often invited to provide live coverage. Our work in science communication has led our President (Sabine Hauert) to be invited to provide insight to the prestigious Royal Society Working Group on Machine Intelligence and to debate at the European Parliament.
On the commercial side, we have been successful in securing our first service contracts with key partners including euRobotics, National Geographic, and EPFL. We have also raised funding through robojobs.org and through the Robot Launch Startup Competition, in collaboration with Silicon Valley Robotics. Our crowdfunding page has helped startups in robotics raise over 1 M CHF.
For our long-term sustainability, we have entered negotiations towards partnerships with main stakeholders in robotics, applied for additional grants in Science Communication, and are in the process of securing sponsorship from key actors. This has allowed us to extend our operational funding by one year.
Persons involved in the project
Last update to this project presentation 17.10.2018