Talk about "going broad" with a science communication strategy: If an open access journal article, a front page NY Times article, Good Morning America, and a two-hour History Channel documentary weren't enough, the "missing link" known as Ida now appears as today's logo at Google's search engine.
In the academic and professional fields of science communication, the story of Ida will be analyzed and debated for some time. At one level, as I explained yesterday, the innovative strategy and resources spent on popularizing this finding to a broader audience is exactly the type of method needed to reach a mass public in an age of fragmented audiences. Indeed, it's likely that Ida has been a major conversation starter at water coolers across the world. And "talking science" is a good thing, sparking incidental attention and interest in science that for some portion of this temporary audience will lead to a longer term engagement with science through the media.
Yet at a second level, as I also discussed yesterday, when this strategy is applied to promote a single study rather than a body of research or wider subject such as environmental science, there is the incentive and tendency towards hype. Put at risk then, is public trust and the communication capital of scientists and journalists. On this angle, the New Scientist has a good round up.