August 8, 2016

A #SeriousAcademic on social media? Yes, you can…

Posted by Laura Guertin

There have been several articles written over the years about the use of social media at conferences. In 2011, The Chronicle of Higher Education ProfHacker blog posted about Using Twitter and QR Codes at Conferences. A quick search in Google Scholar will also turn up multiple papers on Twitter use at conferences, included the ones I list below in the Additional Sources section. AGU has a hashtag up-and-running for the Fall Meeting, #AGU16, and there are even tweets being posted with #AGU17.

More recently (July 18, 2016), The Chronicle had a post describing a college course, where Science Students Learn to Use Social Media to Communicate Research. The July/August 2016 issue of the Journal of College Science Teaching has an article on Using Twitter in a Nonscience Major Science Class Increases Students’ Use of Reputable Science Sources in Class Discussions. There are several other examples of where social media has made its way into the college classroom.

Social media and science certainly are connected – for communication, for community, and for many individual reasons. Some scientists embrace social media, some ignore social media – and that is a choice one can make. A mini-uproar happened when this article was posted on The Guardian website August 5, 2016 (article link):

As soon as the article was published, there was a flurry of opposition on – where else – social media. The Tattooed Professor posted I’ve Got a Serious Problem with “Serious Academics”. Forbes posted an article titled Yes, Serious Academics Should Absolutely Use Social Media. The Small Pond Science blog jumped in with Serious Academics Take the Media Seriously. I have no doubt many more articles and blog posts will appear in the defense of social media.

The tweets coming through right now are supporting the incredible sharing of information that takes place through this social media platform. There is a very active geology community on Twitter that share articles, images, and even geology itself.

The tweet below represents the primary reason I use Twitter.

I’m a “lone ranger.” There are no other geologists on my campus. I am lacking a discipline community. Other faculty may be seeking research connections, the sharing of pedagogical ideas and approaches, etc. Yes, this all can and does happen on Twitter, as well as other social media platforms.

And what a difference a hashtag can make to create a community on social media! I’m participating in the #365scienceselfies project this year to help break down the scientist stereotype that exists and to show young students as well as the general public that scientists can have a serious side but also have fun and full lives. I have “virtually” met some great people through this project – I hope to meet some of them in person one day! These are connections that never would have happened without social media. And I never would have been able to attend the NASA Social at AGU 2013 if I wasn’t using social media (and I still see people at the fall meeting and other conferences from that event).

Do people still need to be smart about how they use social media? Absolutely. But I had former undergraduate researchers post through tweets their first-time conference attendance at ISTE (their Storify), and another student post his thesis writing tips for other students completing senior research and the thesis process (Jonathan’s Storify). If undergraduate students can figure out how to use social media to connect and share their academic experiences, then we certainly have the option to do the same and choose to be a part of a community that shares our professional lives with others. I certainly don’t think less of my colleagues that don’t use social media – it is, however, unfortunate that I am less connected to them with fewer/limited interactions offline.



Additional sources for exploration

Bombaci, S. P., Farr, C. M., Gallo, H. T., Mangan, A. M., Stinson, L. T., Kaushik, M. and Pejchar, L. (2016), Using Twitter to communicate conservation science from a professional conference. Conservation Biology, 30: 216–225. doi:10.1111/cobi.12570 [Full Article]

Darling ES, Shiffman D, Cote IM, Drew JA. 2013. The role of Twitter in the life cycle of a scientific presentation. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution 6:32–43. [Full Article]

Shiffman D. 2012. Twitter as a tool for conservation education and outreach: what scientific conferences can do to promote live-tweeting. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 2:257–262. [Full Article]