Last week, from March 1-7, Kalliopi, Katie and I asked members of the #SciArt community to post 3 pieces of their work on Twitter, and retweet 5 by other people each day, using the #SciArt hashtag. The goal was to raise the profile of science-based art and share the variety of work with the broader community of editors, journalists, researchers, science communicators and enthusiasts. And the response was overwhelming. So let's dig in and look at what happened, and maybe gain some insights into how and why this was so successful, and what we can do next.

Some Stats


Topsy was great for a quick, free comparison.

NodeXL - graphs by Marc Smith @Marc_Smith:

Science blogger Kirk Englehardt was kind enough to put us in touch with Marc Smith of NodeXL. NodeXL creates "snapshots" of social media activity and connections between people. You can click on each of these snapshots below to visit their pages on NodeXL, where you can find a rich trove of data, and interactive versions of these graphs.

Make sure to check them out: you can find the top ranked nodes (people with the most retweets, replies and faves) and top URLs being shared.

The top 10 vertices on that last graph are: symbiartic, miekeroth, artcollisions, eyeforscience, chemheritage, minouette, blackmudpuppy, artologica, artbiocollab, flyingtrilobite

You can see even more snapshots from NodeXL here.


When we reported on the traffic by Wednesday during the tweet storm, that tweet itself became @Symbiartic's most popular tweet during the tweet storm, with over 13,100 impressions and 597 engagements. Netlytic, tweeted by Philip Mai @PhMai of Ryerson University, Toronto:

Not only did our @Symbiartic Twitter account gain about 500 more followers during the Tweet Storm, we also increased the number of people on our #SciArt Twitter list to over 500 artists in that time. The Twitter list is an important tool for us: when asked by science communicators "how do I find an artist" it's the first big list we can point to. Current tally: 541 artists.

Why It Worked

Reaching out - The Friday before the Tweet Storm was to start, I emailed about 100 artists and groups in 3 batches to give them a heads up. This allowed some blogs to plan in advance, like our friends at The Finch & Pea who subsequently retweeted over 180 posts from their blog. The Finch & Pea, Mad Art Lab, SciArt in America, Art Science Gallery, the Association of Medical Illustrators and Guild of Natural Science Illustrators all have multiple members, (in the latter two, huge numbers) so it gave the idea a larger vector with which to spread.

Optimized image - I looked up that a 2:1 ratio would be best to keep a promotional image actually appearing in people's feeds. It worked.

Keeping it simple. Katie and Kalliopi helped immensely by refining my too-wordy email into something short and sweet, that eventually became this image we retweeted throughout the Storm, so newcomers could see at a glance what it was all about.

Lightning in a bottle: once it became apparent this was getting huge, offers of help or requests to capture the magic started coming in. Would we be making a Storify to collect all the tweets? A Tumblr? A blog post? A Pinterest board? Are we making a book? An app? Are we worried content churn sites like IFLS now have easier access to artists? Will marketers recognize the significance and started advertising to the hashtag audience?

All of these questions are good signs. People cared about the event and didn't want to lose it. They want a touchstone.

Quiet Twitter - On the Sunday and Monday when this began, there were no massive celebrity trainwrecks, and more importantly, no major tragedies were appropriately gathering everyone's attention in one place. On the flipside, as the week progressed I noticed a different sentiment. The SciArt hashtag was something positive people could enjoy on twitter, without feeling guilty. It was like binge-watching David Attenborough nature documentaries instead of House of Cards. People were actually thanking the Symbiartic team for having something to look forward to on Twitter.

SciArt is a Big Umbrella - Already here on Symbiartic, we treat #SciArt as a big umbrella term, encompassing scientifically relevant work in multiple forms - palaeoart, bioart, fine art, scientific illustration, medical illustration, cartoons, comics, textile art, sculpture, photography, dataviz and more. People asked, "can this be considered #sciart?" throughout the event.

We kept encouraging a big umbrella, even when it was outside our general wheelhouse. We retweeted poetry, video, dance and even cupcakes. The idea was to invoke excitement about scientific visuals, and a photo of a trilobite cookie may be useful in scientific communication in a different way than diagrams of reconstructive surgery.

Boosting - We put up 3 posts last week in total here on Symbiartic. A number of people posted about what was happening, including Nature, Gizmodo and Mad Art Lab. We kept retweeting the art and "rules" every day throughout the week, so the answer was close by.

I stayed up late into the night observing and retweeting things I may have missed during the day (a couple of work nights resulted in less than 3 hours sleep during the Storm).

I can't confirm it, but multiple people around the world saw #sciart trending (take a look). Brian George of Mad Art Lab is pretty certain it was global in the evenings.

Master Artists Joining In - Emily Damstra, Carel Brest van Kempen and Taina Litwak all joined Twitter for the 1st time due to the tweet storm.

What Could Make It Better?

We'd love to do this again next year. So what could make the experience even greater? Consider this Symbiartic's notes to ourselves as a reminder when we revisit in a year.

Connecting outside the #SciArt Hashtag. We did a great job discovering and supporting each other. Now we need to start pairing other hashtags with #SciArt. Why not #astronomy or #health? A lot of people successfully used #tbt (throwback Thursday) and #FossilFriday. As artists we are often guilty of connecting only with each other, and not our intended partners, writers, editors, and market.

Remember, we don't have to wait until next year to do this one.

Alert the Media - This event worked, phenomenally so. Next year, in addition to a heads-up to fellow artists, we need to alert media outlets. As gratifying as it was to see Nature and Gizmodo take notice, this is great story material for every online outlet, from Buzzfeed to the New York Times to ImagineFX Magazine.

Plan in advance - what do you want from the Tweet Storm? Some people tweeted links to their online print stores or Etsy shops. Others tweeted links to old blog posts. Others lamented when it was over that all they saw was higher Twitter traffic, and nothing else to show for it. Do you want to connect with other artists? Sell? Get hired? Meet favourite writers? Tailor your tweets to meet your goals.

For institutions and publications: there were a number of tweets from museums, schools, and print publications-now-online that we did not boost. Simply, they failed to credit the artist in the tweet. The SciArt Tweet Storm was intended as many things, and one of them was a celebration of creators. Next year, make sure you show off that amazing diorama in your entryway or your past issue covers while naming names.

Let's Do More

Remember to sign up for a newsletter from Symbiartic to see what this event is now transforming into. What do you want it to be? A book, a travelling popup art gallery, an app, a storefront?

Don't stop tweeting with the #SciArt hashtag.

Tell us what you loved, what you were frustrated by, what you didn't expect! Contact us by commenting below, or on Twitter @Symbiartic. And remember to follow @beatricebiology, @FlyingTrilobite and @eyeforscience!

Thank you

None of this could have happened without Twitter, and without everyone's participation, artist and art fan alike. Thank you! Let's never be a quiet community on Twitter again!

Science matters. Images matter. Storms cannot be ignored.




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