Wednesday 3 August 2016

Spotlight on Cartoon Abstracts - shortlisted for the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

Ben Hudson, at work, visualising research
In this, the second in a series of interviews with the 2016 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing shortlist, we talk to Ben Hudson from Taylor & Francis about Cartoon Abstracts.

Tell us a bit about your company

I work as a marketer in the journals division of Taylor & Francis. We’ve been cultivating knowledge since 1798.

What is the project you submitted for the Awards?

Cartoon Abstracts, which are a fun new way of visualising academic research. These act primarily as a marketing tool, and are making a big impact on social media as well as having other applications.

See the cartoons for yourself at

Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it.

Marketers are already using many different ways to promote individual research articles, and attracting the attention of an audience is an ever-evolving challenge.

I wanted to create something that stands out from the crowd, so I worked with a number of illustrators to combine the storytelling of a good press release with the highly visual nature of infographics. The end result is both concise and engaging – perfect for today’s marketing environment.

Once created, individual cartoon abstracts are promoted by T&F through social media, online, and via email. In addition, printed comics are proving very popular as a conference giveaway.

The original authors are provided with printed posters of their cartoon. These can be used at the authors’ place of work, at conferences, or even in poster sessions. Authors are also encouraged to self-promote their cartoon abstract through blogs and social media.

This combined promotion generates significant downloads and fantastic PR for the original research articles. This also increases the potential for citations.

Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

Each individual cartoon abstract summarises the original authors’ work through illustration, harnessing the overwhelming power of images over text.

Illustrations can aid the understanding of difficult concepts, broaden the appeal of niche topics, and transcend language barriers.

Authors enjoy being included as characters, which encourages them to share their cartoon via their own networks, thus increasing our communications reach. The author characters also resonate with the audience.

Elements of humour, intrigue, and parody can be found throughout many of the cartoons, which further increases audience engagement.

Cartoon Abstracts truly has gone viral, winning resounding organic praise from the academic community and beyond.

What are your plans for the future?

Cartoon Abstracts continues to gain exposure and awareness in the wider community, bringing written research to new audiences. I would like the concept to inspire not only current academics, but also the academics of tomorrow. As stated in the cartoon abstract Are Comics a Good Medium for Science Communication?, “Science comics have the potential to develop lay people’s ongoing interest and enjoyment for science”.

Ben Hudson is Associate Marketing Manager at Taylor & Francis and Founding Editor of Cartoon Abstracts. Watch him present during the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing lightning sessions at the Conference in September, where the winners will be announced. Further information and booking available online.

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