17 February 2016

Ask Me Anything – Report from an editor

Posted by Shane Hanlon


By Shane M. Hanlon

This past November, AGU hosted its first Reddit Ask Me Anythingor AMA. As a quick background, Reddit is a social media website that allows users to makes posts to an online bulletin board system. There are many groups and communities, one of which is the Science community (/r/Science), which reaches about 8 million users. Reddit is known for conducting AMA question and answer sessions where Reddit users submit questions for someone to answer through the community. The Science subreddit conducts their own AMA series each day with a wide variety of scientists.

Our first participant was Dr. Alberto Montanari, Professor of Water Resources Management at the University of Bologna – Italy, and Editor-in-Chief of Water Resources Research (WRR), an interdisciplinary journal published by AGU focusing on hydrology and water resources. WRR is celebrating its 50th year in print. Dr. Montanari answered questions related to all things water. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that we asked Dr. Montanari to tell us about his experience:

When I was invited by AGU to participate to a Reddit “Ask Me Anything”Created with GIMP (AMA) session I did not even know what this opportunity meant. My internet research showed me that this would be an amazing occasion to promote the visibility of topical scientific issues and specifically current issues in water resources. I soon got excited by the prospect of making myself available to reply to online questions from the public in real time. I realized that it would be necessary to make myself available for 6 hours or so, and that the time at my disposal to prepare the replies would be rather limited. Indeed, it looked challenging and for this reason I was excited for the opportunity.

Along the 4 hours preceding the session I received about 100 questions and took 2-3 minutes to draft each reply. There was no time to get additional information—I prepared my answers with only my own knowledge and experience. The questions were mainly addressing emerging real world issues like water scarcity, water resources management, fracking, and climate change. The questions were amazingly well articulated and timely. It was clear that the session was attended by informed and prepared people.

The session lasted 2 hours. During that time I pasted my replies into the website and received more and more questions. I tried to reply to everyone, but the pace of the conversation was so frenetic that I was forced to skip the less important queries. At the end of the session I was exhausted but excited. I must confess that I went straight to bed after 6 continuous hours of work.

After the session I received several congratulation emails and some requests for more details. It was a truly rewarding opportunity. The AMA sessions are indeed an efficient solution for promoting the visibility of science.

Dr. Montanari’s AMA can be found here.

-Shane M. Hanlon is an AGU Sharing Science Specialist