Social Media for Science Communication

Authors: Hardik Panchal, Deepa Srivathsa

The world has gone digital and scientific community is no exception. In recent times, there is tremendous outburst of online digital media and scientific institutions worldwide enthusiastically participating in it. Some universities have many departments and labs individually on social media. Nowadays, one can also find a lot of scientific communication activities like citizen science, science humour pages, explainer videos posted on daily basis on facebook, twitter and LinkedIn.

The importance of social media also reflects on recruitment of communication personals who are now required to have social media skills to get a job. But with almost all international research institutes going active on social media, the research community of India has lagged behind. Researchers initially join twitter with enthusiasm and later there is a huge lag phase where you never use it.

The main reason could be the inability of manpower to handle the social media in institutes or scientists may not be aware of how to use it and what to post/tweet. Moreover, in developing countries, scientists often get discouraged with less number of following for their science tweets.

Indian researchers have to get more visibility for a plenty of reasons. So, here are some tips which can help to grow on social media like facebook and twitter exclusively for science communications.

1. Don’t shy away from taking photos : Scientists are known to be working in silos. The first step towards becoming an active social media user may be to remove your shyness to face the camera. Click as much photographs as possible, may it be your lab selfie, groupfie or any activities in lab. Ask someone to take your photographs while you give presentations or take live photographs in conferences and tweet it, this will give you visibility among community in conferences.

2. Don’t worry about your followers on twitter/facebook: Many scientists stop using social media just because they find less number of followers. In social media, you can’t just expect people to follow you and especially in a country like India where science is not much looked upon as news. So even if you have less than 50 followers, just continue using twitter/facebook. Within a year, you will start to get reasonable followers and enthusiastic discussions on facebook.

3. Take selfie video tutorials : Take some time out and explain some topic or your research on video through youtube or directly on twitter/facebook. This may help you get in touch with people of your discipline.

4. Use appropriate hashtags : Hashtags help users segregate as well as highlight the topic you are tweeting about. Hashtags can also gain you more visibility in the specific topic to other users. Use appropriate hashtags wherever possible. e.g. #SciCommers is famous hashtag used by science communication community.

5. Follow enthusiastic people and accounts : Make sure that the scientific community is followed by you and they should know you are on twitter. As soon as you join twitter, start following scientists/researchers who have reasonable presence and activity on twitter. Also start following lab accounts, science media accounts and science explainer social media accounts. Keep interacting with them on different topics.

6. Keep retweeting/reposting : You may not have original tweets everytime. Retweeting and interaction is an activity you must actively involve yourself into. This will help to become active even when you lack original content and your activity. Your wall or profile should not look dull that you haven’t tweeted or posted for a a long time. Generally, people do check daily activities and rest follows.

7. Share awards/outreach/research often: Take social media as a way to celebrate your activities. If your colleagues win award, do consider sharing it on your profile congratulating him/her. Share your research happenings and paper publications as well.

More active you are, the better visibility you have and more people follow you. Basic science needs continuous funding and support from philanthropists to run the show and in democracies the funding is often reflected by the public interest. Social media visibility of the scientist or scientific topic may sometimes create tremendous interest among public which can help government bodies to decide their funding priorities.

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