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Social Media for Scientists Part 4: On The Road

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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A couple weeks ago, I braved the freezing north to speak at the University of Washington for a workshop focusing on Social Media for Scientists. The event was co-sponsored by AFSUW, Washington Sea Grant, and COSEE OLC as a part of the Beyond the Ivory Tower series, a set of free public lectures that hopes to provide researchers with tools and techniques to reach audiences and broaden the impacts of their work. I was teamed up with the effortlessly incredible Liz Neeley, COMPASS’ super ninja of science communication, to try and convince a room full of hardy Seattle scientists that, indeed, every lab should tweet.

I truly do believe that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are essential for every scientist to use. Not only are they the communication platforms of the future, they hold the potential to revolutionize how we do science in the first place. It seems foolish at best that in scientific circles we deride the use of these networks that, literally, two thirds of the world’s population are connecting through. I’ve laid out the arguments before (see the post list below), and will surely continue to talk about this topic until I go hoarse. Simply put, it’s not a question that scientists need to increasingly engage with new media platforms to stay relevant in this digital age. The question is how.

For that, I’m going to point you toward the freshly launched Social Media for Science Google+ Page and the workshop wiki, which is an evolving collection of information and resources, as well as the Storify of the afternoon by Jessica Rohde. You can also download my slides from slideshare, or watch the video of my talk:

Science and Social Media--Christie Wilcox from AFSUW on Vimeo.

More Social Media for Scientists:

Other interesting posts on the topic:

Christie Wilcox About the Author: Christie Wilcox is a science writer and blogger who moonlights as a PhD student in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Hawaii. Follow on Google+. Follow on Twitter @NerdyChristie.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. SlothyScience 12:19 am 05/20/2012

    Hi Christie,

    Thanks for the articles, but I think the problem is much deeper and more complex. I am going to write response on my blog when I get a minute but in short – the problem is the funding and reward model.

    Your Apple analogy is a false analogy. Apple is a commercial business that cannot survive without consumers. Scientists and there work does not depend on public consumption as it is funded mainly by funding bodies. Furthermore, scientists are employed by (often) a university. So while I agree that ultimately it is the tax payer paying the wages and for most of the research, it takes place through so many different avenues that to compare it to Apple is not accurate. Thus, the perceived value of spending time on trying to communicate to the public; and the ‘loyalty of effort’, that is, using university time and therefore money to do something beyond the job description, are major barriers to scientists wanting to or needing to communicate to the public. These are both results of the funding model of research.

    Add to this the reward model. In a conversation with a colleague on twitter recently the conversation went something like this.
    THEM: Journal X wants me to pay $1000 to make my article publically available
    ME: So what did you do?
    THEM: I would like to but I don’t have that sort of money.
    ME: So then publish in publically available journal
    THEM: Yeah I could but I have a career to grow or maintain, the impact factor is no good.

    You and I know that a practicing scientist can come up with a thousand dollars. It is not a lot of money. But there is no perceived tangible benefit to the scientist for spending that money. Furthermore, because of the impact factor mechanism, publishing in free public journals or journals where the impact factor is low, is not a great career move.

    My thesis is that the problems we have are due to the funding model and reward model, which are all ultimately underpinned by our societal economic system. The problem is much deeper than just worrying about a little bit of time or whether people are really interested in doing it.

    I will expand on this in my blog once I have a bit of time, at the moment I am competing in ‘I’m a scientist get me out of here’.


    Link to this
  2. 2. lukethelibrarian 3:42 pm 06/12/2012

    Great series of posts, Christie. Thanks so much.

    Just wanted to let you know that for some reason, the links *to* this post (Part 4) from the other posts in this series (“Social Media for Scientists”) are not pointing at the correct URLs. You may want to check your URLs.

    Thanks again!

    Link to this

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