Autumn 2015 / Life on Campus
Science Goes Social

Research2Reality, a new social media campaign, digests science for the public


Prof. Molly Shoichet, co-founder of Research2Reality. Photo by Roberta Baker.

Prof. Molly Shoichet, co-founder of Research2Reality. Photo by Roberta Baker.

“All life on Earth depends on water,” begins the video. In less than a minute, we’ve learned how Canadian scientists are making sure we preserve this important resource, by, for example, tracking how climate change could affect rainfall.

One of the scientists captured in the clip, posted on Research2Reality.com, or R2R, is U of T physicist Dick Peltier, who creates mathematical models depicting how climate has evolved over 750 million years and how it will change in the future. His work is at the core of what engineering prof Molly Shoichet, co-founder of R2R, believes is the “tremendous value” of university research to global society.

But the challenge, she adds, is in conveying the results. “People are being bombarded with so much information; I think many just haven’t been able to see the value in what our scientists are doing. But Research2Reality presents great research in bite-size pieces, with compelling videos, giving Canadians the opportunity to better understand how our ‘research rockstars’ are shaping our present and future.”

R2R is a social media initiative that, beyond the website, includes Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels. Shoichet and her team have shot videos of 70 Canadian scientists, including 20 from U of T. Five other Canadian universities are partners, along with the provincial government and Discovery Science, which airs public service TV spots.

“I want people to see the fantastic work being done,” says Shoichet. She adds: “Our funding for scientific research comes largely from the people of Canada through their taxes. So, I’ve always felt an obligation to reach out and engage them in what we are doing.”

Watch U of T scientist Dick Peltier discuss climate change


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