Scientists + Social Media = True – part 1.5

I didn’t plan to write a follow up post to my previous blog post about scientist and social media this soon. But earlier this month the editor-in-chief of the Swedish newspaper Göterborgs-Tidningen and columnist at Expressen, Frida Boisen, wrote a column about this topic and I felt that I needed to mention this. The title of her column was “Sluta gömma er i universitetsvärlden” which loosely means, stop hiding in the university world.

Science books
I’ve read all these books. Maybe I should share my knowledge with you?

In her column she asks why there are so few scientists on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Our Universities receives millions in funding from tax payers money so scientists like me can conduct research to increase our knowledge. For this reason Frida finds it unacceptable that scientists isolate themselves and not share their vast knowledge with the world outside academia.

If you have read my previous post about this topic you know that I’m an advocate for scientists using social media. I listed six benefits that both scientists and the public can gain if scientists use social media. But I also wrote that being active online as a scientist is also about putting the scientist out there and not only the science.  This is clearly illustrated in this blog where you can read what we, as scientists at Karolinska Institutet, are doing both inside and outside the lab. Personally I’ve only written briefly about my cancer research, but more is coming.

Cell culture
I’m working with HeLa cells (cervical cancer cells) taken from Henrietta Lacks (1921 – 1951). Her cells are still alive. It’s not magic, it’s biology. I promise.

In addition to lack of time which is the most common excuse scientist give for not being online, Frida mentions in her column that a researcher had told her that 140 characters (which is the limit on Twitter) are not enough to explain his/her research. Though that’s not entirely wrong, Twitter can still be a good tool to communicate ones research. As Frida writes, one could use Twitter to redirect followers to your research report/article. Or why not to a blog where you blog about your work and why it is important in a way that non-scientist will understand. A well informed and scientific literate public is, as Leonidas writes, the cornerstone of a functioning society. Furthermore, if the public understands WHAT you are doing and WHY it is important, there is a greater chance that research is given more money.

But the question that still remains is how do we get more scientists online? Is a longer list of benefits needed to convince scientists? Or should we put more emphasis on crowd funding to fund research? If that would be the case it would “force” scientists to be more open and start talk with the public to convince them that their research is important (like politicians). Is this a good idea? I’ve thought about doing this. Let me know what you think. I’m curious to know.

Dudi.Warsito@ki.se or comment below.

Update:

An interesting post about science communication by PhD student Christine Weber. 

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4 thoughts on “Scientists + Social Media = True – part 1.5

  1. Hi Dudi, I really liked your post and also the previous one where you summarise why it is so important for scientists to communicate with the public. I share your view and I do think we have a responsibility towards the people who fund our research. I have just recently started my own blog (www.curiousaboutscience.net) but before that I was blogging for my institute (wattlab.org/blog), much like you do, and I was really struggling. Hardly anyone of my colleagues could be persuaded to write something. The one’s who eventually contributed then complained that their efforts were in vain, because no one would read it or comment. I myself have troubles reaching my audience, which is another reason why I now switched to wordpress in the hope this will make it easier for people to find me in my niche. I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem. So when Frida Boisen suggests, that we shouldn’t hide, I would reply: “Here I am but who’s actually interested?” I know people are, recent surveys presented at SciComm14 confirm this. But how can we reach each other? Any ideas?

    1. Hi Christine, thanks for reading my post! I also had difficulties when I was trying to convince people at my department to be a contributor to this blog.
      In your comment you mention something very important: who’s actually interested? How can we reach each other? I honestly don’t know what the best method is to reach them. We obviously need to make science easy and interesting to understand. But also more illustrative and fun. As well as explaining WHY the research is important. Me and another blogger were talking about making short simple popular science movies because we believe it would attract more people. But making movies requires a lot of work and that would make scientists,who don’t use social media, even less interested in using social media. But for us who are active online, we have to be the “pioneers” and work extra hard to get the public’s attention. We need to go the extra mile and maybe even be a bit unorthodox. That’s why I think even though making movies (as an example) requires a lot of work, we still need to push through and make these movies. I currently don’t have any other specific examples. The day people are actively searching for science blogs or scientists on Twitter, then it would make it easier to convince other scientists to be more active online since the people are actually searching for them. But to reach that point we (who already are active online) need to go the extra mile.
      Hmm…am I making any sense?

      Btw is the SciComm14 survey available? Couldn’t find it on your blog.

      1. I think this was probably one of the most motivational speeches I’ve ever read about science blogging 🙂 You are absolutely right: we have to make the extra effort right now to get people interested. They need to be able to interpret science results in the right way and recognise bad/inaccurate media coverage, as to not be manipulated. And I think that’s something that should come from the scientists. In any case, the study I was talking about should also help us to stay motivated: it was done by ipsos-mori (Public Attitudes to Science 2014) and shows that 72% of people think science is important, want to find out about it and 24% are using the internet for this. I guess that would be the audience we could reach with a combined effort of regular updates and strong presence in social media. I also really like the idea of your movie project, good luck with that! I’d definitely be interested to see the outcome when you’re done. For now I guess my next blog post will be about public attention to science & science blogging and I’ll make sure to mention your blog as well.

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