Too many brands treat social media as a one way, broadcast channel, rather than a two-way dialogue through which emotional storytelling can be transferred.”- Simon Mainwaring

Social Media Video 2013: Social Media Revolution by international

best-selling author and keynote speaker on social economics, Erik Qualman.


I’ve had my reservations about social media. Especially during my high school years, where it just seemed like a space for vain and self-absorbed teenagers to talk about themselves.  However, moving into the ‘working world’ and through the course of this subject, I have really come to realise and appreciate just how valuable it can be for us as the scientific community to actively engage in social media.

We are probably all on it for personal purposes, but perhaps we really could expand our reach and get a lot more people in general, but especially the future generations interested in science and our research.

Approximately only 28% of the population can pass a basic science literacy test with questions like “Does the Earth revolve around the sun?” or “Did modern humans live alongside dinosaurs?”

Such results might seem trivial if science weren’t so central to current politics. How can a nation make good decisions on climate change, medical practices or research funding if so little of the population understands even basic science?

Yes, part of the solution to this problem is to invest in better education. But even assuming we do that, we are ignoring the millions of people who are no longer in school.

We can make the next generation more scientifically literate, but we have to consider the current generations, too.

Adults over age of 35 never learned about stem cells, nanotechnology or climate change in school, so they depend on the media to learn what they need to know. These are the people who vote. They are the ones whose taxes pay for scientific funding. We need to reach out to them, and to do that we need their trust.

48% of young Americans check Facebook first thing in the morning. 28% do so before they even get out of bed. There are now more than 200 million tweets posted every day.

What do we have to gain?

ANU – National Science Week October 2013.

Networking– with other scientists (for collaboration and discussions), science journalists who may publicise your work and educating lay public interested in the research.

There have been studies that have shown that social media activity can increase funding efforts by 40%. Apparently funding agencies on twitter tell you how to get their grants? Who knew?

Highly tweeted papers are 11 times more likely to be cited.

It takes a really long time to get a paper published. Until this time, no one hears about it. By the time it is published it is either old news or ten other labs are doing the same thing.  Journals have limited reach. So the fact that you can let people know ‘real time’ what you are doing, is a very interesting prospect.

Furthermore, if science is for the public, then publishing in top tier journals has no benefit for the general public. This phenomenon has been described as two different walls: the ‘pay wall’ – who is going to actually buy a paper? And the ‘jargon wall’- why are they going to waste their time reading something that is impossible to understand? (Scientific American)

Apparently twitter kept NASA alive during the shutdown, with people tweeting for them.

The topics covered by the #ThingsNASAMightTweet-ers included the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, International Space Station, Mars Odyssey orbiter, Juno spacecraft and the impending arrival of the Orionids, a meteor shower which occurs every October. When people posed space questions to NASA on Twitter, they were answered by others with expertise in the relevant area.

Just think, a new species was discovered through social media recently.  The possibilities are endless.


Scientists starting to use social media to spread news of research

Scientists can also tweet their research directly to decision makers. Recently, Barack Obama tweeted a consensus statement about climate change to his 31 million followers.

Several studies have shown that tweeting and blogging about scientific findings can increase their impact. Major funding boards, research councils and some tenure, promotion and hiring committees are starting to value all research products, including their social media impact.

Finally, social media can also provide a platform for critiques of published findings. For example, studies of genes that can reverse aging and life forms that use arsenic instead of phosphorus were correctly criticised by a rapid response on social media, in so-called “trials by Twitter”. While Twitter firing squads can deal catastrophic (but deserved) blows to scientific publications, they can also provide a positive filter to highlight important new papers to the community.


The consensus

Scientists need to be on social media because everyone else is already, talking about their thoughts and feelings, having discussions about things they care about, and generally, well, being social.

Scientists need to be searchable. We need to be available. We need to take the time to open a dialogue about our research. Yes, it’s going to take up time, which is a rare and precious commodity to the average scientist. Yes, it’s going to take extra effort and dedication. But it will be worth it.

Compilation of tweets about science this week.


What is your decision? Will you or won’t you participate in the inevitable?

“The power of social media is it forces necessary change.”-Erik Qualman


By Ted Nguyen

An interesting survey on social media use 2013: