If there is one certainty in this world, it is that science will continue to evolve and make the most of technological advances. The 90’s was no exception and with the rise of the internet came a whole new media for science to exploit. Dissemination of research was changed forever.
Recent years have seen the use of social media in science become increasingly popular. In this blog I will discuss the current forms of social media and their respective merits for science, from personal experience. I have no doubt that useful sites will exist that I am not aware of, in which case please feel to add these to the comments. From the off I should mention my main goal of using social media professionally is, unsurprisingly, to raise my profile and create a good account of myself. As you will discover, text can be interpreted 101 ways and the use of these sites should come with a warning sign – “career damage possible”. So please use wisely. Once your words are out there in the ever expanding cyber universe you have little control over the subsequent perception…
Facebook – The devil in disguise?
Let’s begin with the most popular form of social media to ever exist and probably the most dangerous for professional reputation. At least if your Facebook is anything like mine… Don’t get me wrong, I work hard but I am partial to a good time every now and then. After all I am a Geordie and Geordie Shore has shown you exactly how I should behave (important note: if you learn or gain nothing else from my blogs, know Newcastle is nothing like it is portrayed on these disillusioned excuses for television entertainment). Nonetheless, my Facebook is a medium for arranging football matches and social events and the photos that come with the later often being something I think my superiors and potential employers can do without seeing. My golden rule for Facebook is to keep it away from your profession. I don’t add/accept students. I am careful with which academics I want as a ‘friend’. I think it is more likely for a career to be lost than made on this particular site.
Twitter – To tweet or not to tweet?
Twitter blew my mind when I first made an account. I have no idea why but suspect it is related to its unassuming simplicity. Unlike Facebook where the user has unlimited characters, for better or worse, to talk about all their thoughts, twitter limits to 140. Relating science in this many characters is a skill in itself, but an increasingly important one. This is a brilliant medium for effortlessly keeping up to date with developments, papers, conferences, and all things celebrity. I go through phases with twitter, which no doubt correlates with how busy I am at the time and how much public transport I am using. The formula will go something like…
Twitter use = (lab work × writing)2
For raising your profile and helping publicise your latest research I cannot recommend it enough. Like science in general, twitter can be a cruel place at times. I will begin with an exemplary case which occurred at the recent SGM, which was the focus of my previous blog. In jest I tweeted the following…
Happy that my name would now appear on the #SGMSUS twitter feed (whereby anyone who searches “sgmsus” for the latest gossip will see my tweet) increasing my exposure, I sat back to enjoy the next session. Three minutes later I was left wondering where the nearest black hole was to swallow me up. I hadn’t really considered such a seemingly harmless/mindless tweet would cause offence. I suspected that someone might jest back, but I did not expect that to be Nigel Brown, President of the SGM.
I explained in a reply that I had found all sessions interesting and that I did not mean my tweet so literally. Though I will certainly be more careful about exactly what I tweet in future, it’s not all doom and gloom. My latest PLoS ONE paper has been tweeted and re-tweeted (passed on by other users to their followers) numerous times. This is great for dissemination of my research and will increase the likelihood of people reading and citing my work. A recent example of why I love twitter came when I was walking to work. I was mentioned in a tweet by Mike Cox of Imperial College London…
It transpired that my PLoS ONE paper was being passed around with some positive comments. This lead to Nick Loman of the University of Birmingham to tweet this…
As a result of this offer I will be giving a presentation in Liverpool in November to some really important people from my field. This is extremely exciting and timely as I approach the end of my PhD.
Research gate – Another scandal?
40 years after the Watergate scandal the suffix “gate” is still widely used to represent scandal. Research gate does not come free of controversy. I personally quite like research gate but I know others who don’t. For me this medium is simply a way of raising my profile and keeping my publications in one place where people can easily find them. It’s one of the top Google hits for me and immediately provides an overview of what I am about. So in general I don’t use research gate much, usually just update it on release of new publications. I did have an evening recently where I searched for terms related to my interests and ‘followed’ likewise people. This actually led to correspondence with a couple of people. On the back of this and with a bit of luck I will acquire some funds to facilitate me visiting a lab for a couple weeks to exchange methodological advice and open up avenues for collaboration. Following people results in notifications by email when they add a new publication which can be useful, annoying, disheartening, and inspiring if you follow regular publishers, like Rob Knight. So there is definitely merits to be gained here, just don’t waste your life answering other users’ questions.
LinkedIn – LinkedOut, shake it all about.
Much like research gate I find LinkedIn to have its uses but it is not a site I will access daily. Usually a couple times a month, then whenever I have something I want to update on my profile. But again this will come up in Google searches and can be useful source of information if anyone wishes to find you. Everyone seems to be under the impression that by being on LinkedIn you will receive regular job offers. I know of many people who use LinkedIn and none who have gained a job through it. But that’s not to say it cannot happen and there are useful tools within the site for keeping up to date with available jobs. My philosophy on research gate and LinkedIn are they take 20 mins to set up on a rainy day and won’t do any harm just existing in the cyber world.