If you work in the research field like us, chances are you have already come across at least one crazy research project name. The European-funded research schemes are not an exception to the rule and one of our favorite games in Sparks & Co is to find the funniest names we can to entertain us at lunchtime. Upon discussing this with researchers we realised it was actually a sort of a game for them too as it made for an easy way to brighten up a heavy funding proposal process. So why is something that provides us laughs as science communicators sometimes a sour topic? Can’t we just let researchers have some fun where they can?
Funny project name vs. communication goals
Funny research project names are funny, there’s no denying it. Take for example the GLADIATOR project.
Everyone knows the famous and acclaimed Ridley Scott masterpiece from 2000. So when European researchers decided to gather up to tackle together some issues about graphene, they probably thought it was cool to name the project after a Roman societal figure and famous Hollywood movie. The problem here is that the Gladiator reference doesn’t give information about the project! It is by not tied to the concept surrounding the research at hand, and is therefore a big distraction from what should be the focus here: the great research objectives and final results.
Another example would be another FP7 project called FUND. The FUND project has absolutely nothing to do with funding or market access, as it was intended as “a platform to enable active players in the cities to network and create opportunities for dialogue and engagement with science“. The problem here that this project name and associated platform probably sent the wrong message about the intended use to targeted stakeholders. In any case, it looks that project partners realised this early enough and changed the platform name to “PlayDecide”. Which brings me to my second argument…
Funny project name vs. SEO
Have you ever heard of “Search Engine Optimisation” (SEO)? It is the practice of optimising content on the internet so that when you search for key words on search engines such as Google or Bing, you will get the result you’re looking for on the first page. Put simply, it’s making sure users find what they’re looking for. Now imagine a second that you’re looking for a research project called THE project… Yes, you get me now? There is very little chance you’ll find any information about this FP7 project on “Taxation, Heterogeneity and Employment”.
In a similar way, if you want people, stakeholders, policy-makers, industry or even the media to easily find information about your project, you need to think about your project name first. SEO techniques will only get you as far as the initial project name can take you.
In a nutshell, we do get researchers try to get the fun where they can. Though if you want your project to have any chance at making an Impact on society, make your project name meaningful. If you can, try to link it to a story. Take for example a project on fighting depression in the elderly: you could call your project by the name of a famously grouchy and elderly character like Carl Fredricksen, from the Pixar movie Up (2009). The CARLUP project, for example, incorporates the name of the character, the movie and has not been used before! This will help greatly in raising awareness among several of your stakeholders communities. On top of that, the project name itself will carry the message you’re trying to get across, being “we’re researching depression in the elderly”.
Tell me, have you ever come across some crazy project names in your career? Has it ever prevented you from communicating about your research or results? If the answer is yes, maybe you should think about integrating Sparks & Co’s communications experts into your research mix to maximise your societal impact.
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