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Podcasts – an underestimated tool of science communication


The last couple of years have seen a real surge of podcasts in many different genres and gladly this has also been the case when it comes to podcasts totally devoted to science. Today, most scientific journals have podcasts of their own where they discuss new articles, often with the authors themselves. This allows for a great medium for researchers to get the chance to, often in a lengthier time format, explain and deepen the analysis of the research behind their newly published article. The podcast format is therefore often considered a great way the get the research “out there” and to get the public involved and thereby helps increase transparency. Several of previous PLOS Blogs have featured posts about podcasts and PLOS have had a podcast of their own: The PLOScast, but  since 2017 it is not updated but may come back in the future.

As editors of PLOS ECR we see science podcasts as great tool for ECRs to listen to established researchers and to get valuable insights of new studies and  also to get tips to further advance their own careers. Here we want to share some of our favorite scientific podcasts. Please share your own favorite podcasts in either commenting on this article or by writing a blog post. You can reach us at


Recommended pods by Andreas

The Future of Life Institute (FLI) is a volunteer-run research and outreach organization that works to mitigate existential risks facing humanity, particularly existential risk from advanced artificial intelligence (AI). They have a series of podcasts with conversations with prominent researchers, policy experts, philosophers, and other influential thinkers of all kinds focusing on AI safety, nuclear safety and also climate change with their special series Not Cool: A Climate Podcast that I highly recommend.

Got Science? podcast from Union of Concerned Scientists, a national nonprofit organization founded by scientists and students at MIT, features one-on-one discussions with scientists and experts about their research and how it applies to current issues like climate change, missile defense, autonomous vehicles, and more.

Hidden Brain podcast from NPR, often deemed the best science podcast by different media outlets. Focuses on different aspect of the human mind and what drives our behavior. (Meredith likes this one too!)

Science Talk from Scientific American. As a public health researcher I really enjoy this focus on health related aspects from issues like air pollution, plastics, super bugs etc.

Moonrise podcast by the Washington Post is not strictly a science podcast and aired during the moon landing anniversary this summer. However, it evolved to be a twelve episod nerve thrilling social, political and scientific historical analysis of what led up to great achievement of placing a man on the moon. It deepened my understanding of this event and the passionate journalist leading the quest for answers uncovers many new details along the way.

Science Weekly from The Guardian. The award-winning  podcast is really the best place to learn about the big discoveries and debates.

Making Sense with Sam Harris, neuroscientist and philosopher. Interesting conversations with researchers, authors and other prominent guests on diverse topics like neuroscience, philosophy, politics, religion, social media etc.

Science Rules! with Bill Nye A call in show where Bill Nye the Science Guy tackles questions on just about anything in the universe together with experts and special celebrity guests.


Recommendations from Meredith

This Week In Virology: TWIV is part of a network of weekly science pods organized by Columbia University’s Vincent Racaniello. If viruses aren’t your thing, they probably have another show that will suit you. Typically these episodes are on the longer side, and they were great listening during the early years of grad school when I was doing lots of mindless minipreps. In each episode, Vincent chats with other virologists about a given topic, and he and his guests will discuss a paper. It’s awesome to see how PI’s discuss a paper, especially when there are things that they are unfamiliar with–a great reminder that even the most established in their career still have things to learn! Fun banter, informative, and you’ll learn a lot.

Gastropod: I’ll let their tagline do the talking: “Gastropod looks at food through the lens of science and history.” The hosts do a great job of explaining science in approachable ways, and have some great scientific experts that they bring on as guests. Again, great banter between the hosts and really fantastic storytelling. Plus you can browse their back catalog for your favorite foods as a way to try them out! My all-time favorite episodes were about cheese, in which they consult a microbiologist at Tufts, and cocktails, in which I learned how the perfect ice cube is actually really complicated.

NPR Short Wave: This podcast is really new, but I’ve been enjoying it a lot. It’s great for a quick bite of science, and tends to incorporate topics that have recently been in the news (ex. one of their first episodes was about vaping). If you want science with a dose of current events, I think this is a nice quick option.

Facts Machine: Full disclosure, I’m friends with some of the hosts of this podcast (all current or former Weill Cornell grad students). But even if I wasn’t, I’d definitely recommend this science trivia podcast for its wacky scientific facts, fun conversations between the hosts, and hysterical wordplay. The hosts have also done two live shows at Caveat in NYC; I went to their first and had a blast learning about the periodic table of elements in a casual setting among friends. This podcast is a great example of how much fun science communication can be when your attitude is one of inclusive collective excitement about learning new things, and sharing that knowledge with others.

Science Blender: I learned about this podcast (run by Cornell University students up in Ithaca, NY) when I attended ComSciCon over the summer. The group aims to ‘blend’ a person with their science; during the conference, we discussed repeatedly how maintaining to connection with the aspects of our life which are not related to science are really important for relating to other people when we share our work. As such, I really get behind the mission of this podcast to showcase not just a scientist’s work, but their upbringing, their hobbies, and their personality. The people I met who were affiliated with the podcast were all really open to giving advice to aspiring podcasters too.

Featured image is from Pixabay and is used under a Creative Commons License 2.0 (CC BY 2.0).





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