What does a scientific writer do?

Learn what a scientific writer does (and why)

Scientific writing involves transforming complex research, new discoveries, and innovations into accessible content for a range of audiences and channels. Scientific writers, including those at leading science writing agencies like 42group, craft content for websites, grant applications, marketing materials, social media and more. The best scientific writers aren’t stenographers, but are inquisitive and enthusiastic, searching out great stories and telling them. 

Effective scientific writers excel at making intricate scientific concepts engaging and comprehensible for diverse audiences, including researchers, educators, students, policymakers, and the general public.

By the end, you’ll understand the importance of scientific writing and why 42group is the ideal choice for your next project.

Who or what is 42group?

Before we start, you should know a bit more about 42group. We’re one of the UK’s leading scientific writing agencies. Based in Bristol, but with an international client base and reputation, we provide comprehensive science writing services across all sectors, from academic institutions to start-ups. 

You can see some examples of our work here. If you’ve got a project you want to discuss, then get in touch. 

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What is scientific writing?

Scientific writing is all about translating complex scientific information into clear, engaging content for various audiences. Science writers can find themselves creating content for specialists, including researchers, educators, and policymakers. They may also be creating grant submissions for funding bodies, and producing content for the general public. 

In simple terms, scientific writers work with research organisations, academic institutions, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers and others that work in the science field. They bridge the gap between innovation and understanding. 

Scientific writers will work across teams and departments producing various materials, including:

  • Website content
  • Ad copy
  • Landing pages
  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • Email campaigns
  • Social media posts
  • Tone of voice guidelines
  • Style guides
  • Product descriptions
  • Animation scripts
  • Brand storytelling
  • Workshops and training
  • Copy editing
  • Grant writing
  • Academic support

Scientific writers have the skills, experience and insights to create content that builds human connections. The best science writers (like those at 42group) can find the words that engage your audiences as well as delivering for algorithms, boosting awareness and online presence. 

But how do they do it?

We’re going to walk you through the scientific writing process, with the following steps:

  • The importance of understanding your audience
  • Principles of great science writing
  • SEO for science writers

Let’s start where every scientific writer should, with your audience.

Understanding your audience

It goes without saying, but we will anyway, that effective scientific writing starts with understanding your audience. You need to recognise and reflect their levels of scientific knowledge, interests and motivations in your content. This helps tailor your messages to create engagement, and (hopefully) to inform and inspire them.

Here are some of the core audiences you might find yourself wanting to communicate with, and some ways of doing so effectively:

  • Researchers and scientists: Let’s start with what’s likely to be the easiest audience to engage. Researchers and scientists will naturally seek evidence-based information written with precision and clarity. Before writing for scientists, consider what they want from your work. Research papers, for example, gradually build an argument, but time-poor researchers, scientists and other readers want to know immediately what you’re communicating to them. When writing, include comprehensive data, references to studies and clear explanations of methodologies and results. As well as new discoveries, it’s essential to highlight the implications of findings for future research, which can make content more relevant and valuable. 
  • Policymakers, funders, & stakeholders: It’s all about the money here – but don’t focus on figures, express impact. It’s about the value of what you do and have discovered. This audience (and all audiences, to be fair) value concise, actionable information that clearly expresses impact. They’re not specialists, and will benefit from clear explanations of the significance and potential impact of scientific findings. Highlighting the relevance of research to current policy discussion and debates makes content more readable and grounds it. Remember, even the most abstract and complex research can be made tangible when you’re talking about the societal implications and practical applications of your work. 
  • General public: The general public (i.e. you and me) want to understand the impact, innovation and uniqueness of your work – and we want that told to us clearly and quickly. In a world where attention spans are measured in fractions of a second, you need to grab readers. Non specialists are going to prefer engaging content with relatable explanations and content that’s totally free of jargon. You can use storytelling techniques, case studies and real-world examples to make content interesting and accessible. Think like your reader does (not like a researcher) and be sure to address common questions and misconceptions to increase engagement. Your content should be simple to understand, but not overly simplistic – maintaining the integrity of your work. 
  • Media and communicators: Scientific research is (often crudely) judged by the impact it has in the media. Journalists and professional communicators want accurate, compelling information for their stories. They aren’t likely to have time to read detailed articles (at least not when on deadline), so provide clear summaries, quotes and insights. Focus on emphasising broader significance and impact. Highlighting the human element and real-world applications of your research can make it more newsworthy. Don’t think like a researcher, approach press releases, news stories and social posts like a journalist.
  • Educators and students: This isn’t a huge focus for much scientific writing, but don’t forget the importance of engaging educators and students. They need clear, accurate information to support teaching and learning. Use straightforward language, context, examples, and visual aids to enhance understanding.

In many cases, you’ll find yourself writing for all these audiences. Take a website, for example. You’ll need to ensure that the content you create is accessible to all, but ultimately you’ll need to prioritise. Don’t worry, we can talk you through that – and more – in the following sections. 

But first, let’s look at what great science writing looks like. 

Principles of great science writing

We’re all different and consume content in different ways, however, there are some fundamentals of great science writing that we at 42 group aim to adhere to. What are they? Let’s go through the five principles of great science writing…

  1. Clear: Clear writing is compelling writing, even when you’re communicating about the most complex subjects. We always try to use plain language and define necessary scientific terms in ways that everyone – not just experts – can understand. As well as words, we structure content in a way that is easy to navigate (like this blog) and where possible, incorporate visual aids. Clarity of content can help ensure that your message is easily understood by a broad audience. Scientific writers should avoid jargon and overly technical language to make content accessible – without misrepresenting or misinterpreting findings.
  2. Accurate: Science is all about precision, so a scientific writer needs to ensure all information is accurate and up-to-date. It’s essential to regularly review and update content to reflect the latest research findings. Science builds on layers of previous research, so providing references and citations is vital for credibility. When dealing with complex subjects and cutting-edge research, fact-checking and peer reviews are essential steps in maintaining accuracy. 
  3. Engaging: Accurate and clear content can capture the reader’s attention, but the best scientific writers go further, using storytelling techniques and other strategies to increase engagement. At 42group, we’re scientific writers who take a journalistic approach to content . Using the techniques we learned in magazines and newspapers to make content interesting and relatable can increase reader retention. We find that using anecdotes, quotes, case studies and real-world examples can make complex topics more accessible. 
  4. Persuasive: Science is all about the transparent recording and reporting of facts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be persuasive when writing about it. Persuasiveness in content creation is all about articulating the significance of research findings and their potential impact on the real-world. Using testimonials, case studies and success stories where your work has been applied can validate your arguments. Highlighting the practical applications and benefits of your research is important, demonstrating what we used to call ‘knowledge transfer’. Even the most abstract and esoteric research can benefit from being grounded with a real-world example or two.
  5. Compliant: We know that trust in online content is at an all-time low, and you don’t want to add to the misinformation. You’ll need to ensure that your writer adheres to ethical and legal standards at all times. While you can use storytelling and narrative techniques, be sure to represent findings accurately and avoid sensationalism. Scientific writers should also ensure they respect intellectual property rights and disclose potential conflicts of interest, including those of the researcher. While not necessarily a job for the science writer, the organisation must ensure total transparency about funding sources and affiliations.

Do all these things and your content will inspire audiences and smash SEO, right? That’s the principle, but it’s not always that simple. Next, we’re going to talk you through how to work effectively with a scientific writer. 

SEO for scientific writers

We all use search engines in our daily lives. (Unless you regularly check our blog, we’re guessing you probably found your way here through Google or Bing, right?)

SEO is all about optimising your content for search engines, ensuring it conforms to the technical standards and is written (and in some cases, improved) to ensure it can be indexed by Google in a prominent position. Or to put it more simply, SEO is all about ensuring your content is featured prominently on search engine results pages for the search terms you want.

Effective SEO strategies can increase your content’s visibility and drive more traffic to your site. We’re not going to be able to provide details of everything you need to do, but here are some of the SEO basics for scientific writers:

  • Keyword Research: The world of search is based on keywords. You understand your audience, but you know what they’re searching for? Before creating content, take time to identify relevant keywords and phrases that your target audience is likely to search for. Tools like Google Keyword Planner can help you find popular and relevant keywords and keyphrases your audience uses. Incorporating these keywords naturally into your content can help improve its search engine ranking, but you need to do this naturally and avoid keyword loading (which is a particular problem you’ll experience when working with early-stage or inexperienced writers). As well as keywords, including long-tail keywords and variations can help capture a broader range of search queries. Keywords can, and do, change so regularly updating and refreshing your keywords based on current trends and search behaviours can help maintain and improve your SEO performance, keeping you at the top of search where you belong!
  • Quality content: We’re a scientific writing content agency, so we’re going to say it, but it’s true that high-quality content is essential for SEO. Search engines favour content that is informative, well-written and is valuable to readers. One important way to consider content is how accurately and effectively it answers your audiences’ questions. Does it provide all the information they need to know in one place, or provides links to other sources. Ensuring your content is accurate, up-to-date and thoroughly researched can enhance its quality and boost its search engine performance. Don’t try too hard to write an algorithm. Follow our science writing tips above, include original data, insights and perspectives to give your content authority. 
  • Meta tags and descriptions: Meta tags, page titles and alt tags are all important for SEO. You should use meta tags, including title tags and meta descriptions to provide search engines with information about your content. These tags should include relevant keywords and accurately describe the content, without trying to stuff in keywords. Ensuring your title tags and meta descriptions are unique is essential and can play a part in improving your overall SEO performance.
  • Internal and external links: Links are the way the internet references itself. You should use internal links to connect related content on your site, and include external links to reputable sources. Both internal and external linking helps search engines understand the context and relevance of your content. Internal linking can also help improve navigation and user experience on your site, guiding readers to relevant information. External links, too, can improve the user-experience. Use links sparingly and only link to trustworthy sources. We’re getting technical now, but be sure links are set to open in a new window. (Like this one)
  • User experience (UX): A positive user experience can improve your SEO. Ensure your site is easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, and fast-loading. Providing a clean and organised layout, clear headings, and intuitive navigation can enhance the user experience. Ensuring your content is accessible and readable on all devices, including smartphones and tablets, can also improve user satisfaction and SEO performance. Regularly testing and optimising your site for speed and performance can help maintain and enhance your SEO rankings.

Work with a specialist scientific writer

Hopefully, by now, you’ll understand the value that a specialist scientific writer can bring to your organisation, the skills they should have, and the basics of great science content. At 42group, we’re one of the UK’s leading scientific writing agencies with an expert in-house team and trusted freelancers ready and waiting to support you by creating clear, accessible, and accurate copywriting and content. 

We recommend you take the time to learn about the scientific writing agency you want to work with, understand how they will approach the job and test their specialist skills. Just as important as the technical expertise are the personalities and approaches of the people you will work with. Science communication is all about collaboration, bringing together subject matter experts and storytellers to create content that captures the impact of your research and innovation.

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