Communicating Science on Social Media

Tomorrow night in the Preparing the Future Professoriate class we are participating in a “Communicating Science” workshop. While this workshop will focus on improvisation games to increase oral communication skills, another area for science communication I believe is important is via social media. Here are a few:

1. Communication is your responsibility. Who is the ultimate “consumer” of your research? For many of us, if we get down to it, the ultimate mission of our work is to positively impact people in some way. Unfortunately, researchers rarely communicate the findings of their work to the lay population. Manuscripts published in traditional scientific journals are often locked behind paywalls. Those that are freely available via Open Access platforms and publishers are still rarely accessible since the discipline specific jargon is a barrier for anyone not in that specific field.

2. It’s where the people are. Especially young people. About half of young Americans get their news from…Facebook. Yup, Facebook! I heard someone (I forget who now) say, “If you’re trying to communicate, but you’re not on social media, you’re like a tree falling in an empty forest – yes, you’re making noise, but no one is listening”. So get on-line and get in to the conversation!


3. Unqualified people are the go to source. Not to name names on this one, but folks with a large social media presence tend to be used frequently as a source for nutrition information [my field], despite lack of qualifications and accuracy of information. I imagine this is the case in other disciplines as well. Scientists need to be out there on these social media networks to help spread accurate information and correct misconceptions.

4. Increase the spread of your research. The more your work is promoted via social media channels, the greater the likelihood of it: being shared with those who will benefit from the findings; picked up by media sources; and cited by other scientists. And really, who among us doesn’t want to increase our h-index?


Personally, I’m drawn to Twitter as my main channel for communicating research and nutrition/exercise information via social media. This is partly because of the brevity of this channel (combined w/ my current lack of time to blog more about my field) and ability to link to outside content. However, the primary reason I utilize Twitter is because the majority of conversations on food, diet, health, and nutrition topics occur on Twitter. Therefore, for my field, using Twitter makes the most sense.

What social media channel is the most heavily utilized in your field of study? Do you have accounts you regularly maintain for professional purposes on social media channels? If not, what hesitations do you have about doing so?



A PhD Student at Virginia Tech. This blog was created as a class requirement for Contemporary Pedagogy - Spring 2013. 

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