22 October 2018

Are you spending enough time on social media?

Posted by Shane Hanlon

By @oceanseaicenpi

Example of a post on @OceanSeaIceNPI

“Science isn’t finished until it’s communicated”. This famous quote, along with “publish or perish”, highlights perfectly the importance of communication for a scientist. We are all accustomed to publishing our results to our peers through peer-review articles. But, reaching the general public is also in our mandate. In recent years, the increasing use of social media has been accompanied with an increase of both in demand from the public and a form of defiance towards mainstream channels. In this context, a direct and easy transmission of information from researchers to the general public is more than ever necessary.

The @OceanSeaIceNPI initiative was started four years ago by a small group of researchers, enthusiastic about the possibilities offered by social media for outreach. Being led by researchers, this initiative allowed a more direct transmission of information to the public. And spreading the effort across the team limited the time used by each individual. It also made the initiative independent of people and projects, which often come and go in an academia.

Working in remote locations, in the Arctic, we document our work with lots of beautiful and unusual photos. These photos support our communication, illustrating small pieces of information about our work. Over time, we learned how to tailor our posts to reach the public and adapt to the different audiences we have on different social media. Based on our experience, we mostly reach the general public on Instagram. Our Twitter community is mainly composed of scientists and research institutes, while our Facebook community is friends and family circle. Tailoring the posts for each channel is crucial for success. For example, if advertising newly published scientific articles on Twitter presents a real benefit, on Instagram, it will get limited interest. In fact, this type of post is an assured loss of followers.


Geographic spread of our followers for the Instagram account (red), Facebook account (yellow), and Twitter (blue)

We believe that this experience, besides improving our personal communication skills, has demonstrated the potential for researcher-driven communication. After four years we have reached more than 8000 followers, on our three channels combined, from all over the world and inspired colleagues from other teams to do the same.


 – @OceanSeaIceNPI is a researcher led scicomm initiative at the Norwegian Polar Institute to communicate polar science to the general public. Check out their peer-reviewed paper associated with this post.