On June 30th, 2010, World Social Media Day was created to bring people together and recognize the impact that social media has on communication globally. What started as a communication method for friends and families is now an integral tool for news, discussion, professional connections, and marketing.
In its short life, social media has redefined how we interact and communicate with one another. People have flocked to social media ever since the beginning of MySpace in 2003. However, it’s no secret that the pandemic accelerated social media usage, acceptance, visibility, and engagement. For many of us, it’s a great way to keep up with family, connect with friends, and, well, be social. But with more conversations happening online than ever, the question is, how does the scientific community fit into this ever-changing virtual world?
Earlier this year, an opinion piece published in Science criticized scientists who use Instagram as a tool for science outreach.1 The author argued that “time spent on Instagram is time away from research” and specifically called out female scientists for snapping selfies instead of proposing policy changes to battle the systemic issues of marginalization in STEM fields.
The piece received a significant amount of backlash from a community of social media-savvy scientists. The community commonly referred to as “Science Twitter” is active in using the social media platform as a novel way to humanize science and engage with science-curious followers. Likewise, Instagram provides snapshots into the diverse lives of scientists who feel free to offer their own personal perspectives rather than acting as a representative of their institutions. These growing communities also challenge the stereotypical image of scientists as white men wearing lab coats. Furthermore, the digital presence of scientists and science communicators continues to be fueled by trending hashtags like #actuallivingscientist, #stillascientist, and #scientistswhoselfie.
As the point of contact for our social media efforts at Promega, I spend a lot of time scanning science-related Twitter, Facebook, Instagram media accounts. There are some science channel managers who do a great job of bringing delight to their followers. Those managers use their platforms to educate—I follow them because they constantly amaze me with new things. I find information that is useful, fun and makes me think “wow, that is interesting.” On my favorite accounts, that new learning comes along with a wry sense of humor, and some of my favorite social media channels are ones that not only teach me new things but do it with a little fun on the side—often in the form of bad science puns.
Promega has the privilege of sponsoring the Cool Science Image contest run by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Just recently @UWMadScience tweeted about the deadline for the contest, tagging @promega in the tweet. Their tweet included a visual science pun which was not lost on their fellow campus account managers:
A BuzzFeed News analysis of “news” stories during the final three months of the 2016 US presidential campaign revealed that on Facebook, the 20 top-performing fake-news stories from hoax sites and hyper partisan blogs generated 8,711,000 instances of engagement (shares, reactions, or comments) while the 20 top-performing stories from news web sites generated 7,367,000 instances of engagement (1). Basically fake news generated 1.5 million more responses than real news.
This is particularly concerning given that a Pew Research study from July 2016 indicated that 63% of Americans say that family and friends are an important way they get news—they get their news from their social networks (online or offline) rather than from vetted broadcast or print media (2), and 54% of people asked in this same study responded that they “sometimes” or “often” received news from social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
I too must confess that quite often it’s a tweet or a Facebook post that alerts me to a news story or world event. Often it’s even a tweet or a post that leads me to the latest science news. I can’t remember the last time I deliberately watched the 6:00 news, though it was a staple in my house when I was growing up.
AAAS included a session on social media at the 2015 annual meeting. The #AACR15 stream was so busy, by the time I finished reading a tweet that piqued my interest, it had almost scrolled off the bottom of my feed–a bit like an agarose gel that was running too fast. Scientists are connecting with other scientists on forums like reddit to discuss cloning strategies and transfection issues, and the Global Biological Standards Institute (GBSI) is running a huge campaign to educate life scientists about cell line authentication (#authenticate) through social media.
Social media have decidedly entered the science mainstream with attendees at meetings posting to twitter and Facebook from their Instagram accounts, societies setting up multiple hastags for meetings and popular sessions, and journals tracking not just the “old-fashioned” Impact Factor, but rather social media shares, comments, retweets and likes of articles. Increasingly social media are the impact factors in science communication.
Live tweeting at meetings is rapidly becoming a way that hot topics are being disseminated far beyond the limited reach of the presentation room at the conference center, and PLOS One recently published an article by Ekins and Perlstein that provides guidance to meeting organizers and attendees for live tweeting events. The article talks about what a hashtag is and how it is used. It is great for novices or experienced social media users who might have missed that one particular twitter abbreviation, but the authors go beyond the technical aspects of tweeting to discuss the promise and potential of reaching a global audience with the leading edge science that is presented at scientific conferences and the richness that can be gained by bringing more people into the discussion.
Have you ever “live tweeted” a talk or event or followed a live tweet stream? Do you have a favorite scientist “live tweeter” that you follow? Let us know in the comment section below. How are you, as a scientist, using social media?
As the social media lead for Promega, I keep my eye on trends in new media. I have personal accounts that I keep mostly to see what other people are doing. I try hangouts, social networking and other things so that I have an idea of developing practices outside of the biotechnology industry. One activity that has been popular over the last couple of years during the month of November in the United States is the Facebook post of “30 days of thanksgiving”.
I wondered what “thanksgiving” looks like to the research scientist. So I asked:
What are the things you are thankful for in science?
The answers have been as varied as the people I talked to ranging from little things like water bath floats to really big things, like the renewal of your research funding or achieving tenure.
Here are some of the answers from my informal inquiries:
“Tube floaties for water baths.”
—E.V., genomics product manager
“I was always thankful for Geiger counters.”
—K. G., science writer
“Thermal cyclers and Taq Polymerase. As an undergrad I watched someone sit with a timer and move their tubes between water baths at 3 different temperatures, opening tubes and adding polymerase at the end of each cycle. Modern PCR is SOOO much easier.”
—M.M., research scientist
“I am thankful for competent cells. I remember preparing the CaCl2 and doing slow centrifugation. Also thankful for serum-compatible transfection, rapid ligations and online journal access (no longer have to traipse over to the university library to get papers photocopied- uuurrrgggghhh).”
—R.D., technical services scientist
“How about T-vectors for cloning? I was no molecular biologist, but could make a T-vector work.”
—K.K., science writer
“I am thankful for open-access journals and the ability to read the full article without an institutional subscription.”
—S.K., science writer
“I am ever so thankful for ONLINE ORDERING! So awesome. Throw in online technical manuals, on-line support tools, on-line calculators – all are awesome!!”
—A.P., director, scientific courses
“I am thankful for automated sequencing- manual sequencing was laborious and hazardous!!!”
—R.G., technical services scientist
Do any of these resonate with you? What are you thankful for as a scientist? Let us know in the comments.
As an HR professional, I attend different seminars and conferences to obtain credits for my HR certification. We had a SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) state conference last week, and I learned all kinds of new strategies involving recruitment, succession planning, employee engagement and change management. One topic was present in every session I was in: social media. How to recruit through social media, engage employees in social media, and how to maintain your company and personal brand through social media.
I’m not generally a space nut, but I do get a huge kick out of the work we’ve done to put rovers on Mars. I’ve felt pride and loneliness on behalf of the earlier rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and cheered the unexpected longevity of their missions. They always felt so plucky and can-do; sort of a robotic extension of the American spirit on a daunting new frontier. Who’s a cute little robot pioneer doing incredibly valuable scientific exploration? You are! YOU ARE!
Earlier this month, hours after Mars Curiosity navigated it’s “seven minutes of terror” and successfully landed on the Red Planet, I laid in bed, having just soothed my daughter back to sleep. All that soothing had had the opposite effect on me: I was wide awake. I decided to try to wind myself back down by staring at the small illuminated screen on my phone and catching up on some tweets. What can I say? It makes me drowsy every…single…time…zzzzzzz. As I scrolled through my Twitter feed, I saw tweet after tweet from my friends and connections heralding the latest interplanetary achievement by NASA. Curiosity was on the ground! Successfully! They did it! The mood was nothing less than jubilant and awestruck, and I found myself getting completely sucked in. Yeah, this WAS super cool! I mean, we built a SKY CRANE? There was a guy with a MOHAWK? Whooo-hoo! USA! USA! USA! Continue reading “When I Grow Up, I Want To Write #PewPew Hashtags”
I’m not feeling very well today, which stinks because it’s Friday and I had some really fun plans tonight. Instead, I’ll probably end up staying home for a quiet night with my husband and daughter and some takeout food, and an early night to bed. I’m not complaining too much, though, because let’s be honest, you enjoy those quiet nights when you have a one-year-old toddler! But a recent article in New Scientist makes me wonder if, had I been paying close enough attention to Twitter, I could maybe have known over a week ago that I would’ve been under the weather today, and save me from having to tell all my girlfriends I’m probably pooping out on them tonight. Continue reading “Under the Weather? Twitter Knew Over a Week Ago”
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