Twitter as a channel to communicate your science
Many of the talks at the North American Congress for Conservation Biology, held in Madison, Wisconsin from July 17-20, have emphasized the need for scientists to better connect with public audiences. We need science communication that is accessible and accurate, making it valuable for scientists to be communicators whenever they can.
Twitter can help any scientist take on the role of communicator in a number of ways. For one, it provides opportunities to correct misinformation quickly. As example, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the most followed scientist on Twitter, produced a minor uproar in March of 2016 by tweeting: If there were ever a species for which sex hurt, it surely went extinct long ago.
People well-versed in zoology recognized this statement as inaccurate and Tyson was corrected quickly by tweets from scientists and science communicators alike.
While this example is inconsequential, it shows how, through Twitter, incorrect information can be countered within hours, even minutes.
But Twitter is not only a place to counter misinformation. It also can help promote positive behavior change. David Steen, a herpetologist I follow on Twitter, interacts frequently with his Twitter followers and encourages them to tweet photos of snakes they want identified. Along with his identifications, he urges people to be tolerant of snakes, to recognize that most aren’t dangerous, and he dissuades them from harming snakes. Occasionally someone posts a tweet that shows Steen’s message is getting through and influencing his followers’ behavior.
A great benefit of Twitter is how it can bring scientists’ personalities, voices—and passion—into public dialogues.
Beyond countering misinformation and promoting behavior change, Twitter is useful for scientists as a communication medium because:
● It disseminates information directly and rapidly.
● It encourages succinctness.
● It reaches a wide range of audiences, including the public, policy-makers, and the media. More than 60% of journalists use Twitter!
● It’s free!
If you're new to Twitter, I suggest getting started by following your professional organizations. See what they’re tweeting and get to know the organizations and individuals they follow. You may want to follow them also. When you’re ready, jump into the conversation.
If you’d like to read more about the value of Twitter to scientists, here's a list of references from the growing body of literature. And please sign up; I hope to connect with you on Twitter! (@FrancieStotz)
Scientists and Social Media
Scientists and social media:
Bert, A. (2014). How to use social media for science — 3 views: Tips from science and journalism pros at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting. Retrieved from http://www.elsevier.com/connect/how-to-use-social-media-for-science
Bik H.M., & Goldstein, M.C. (2013). An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists. PLoS Biol, 11(4): e1001535. http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1001535
Bombaci, S. P., Farr, C. M., Gallo, H. T., Mangan, A. M., Stinson, L. T., Kaushik, M. & Pejchar, L. (2016). Using Twitter to communicate conservation science from a professional conference. Conservation Biology, 30: 216–225. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12570/abstract
Parsons, E.C.M., Shiffman, D.S., Darling, E.S., Spillman, N. & Wright, A.J. (2014). How Twitter Literacy Can Benefit Conservation Scientists. Conservation Biology, 28: 299–301. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12226/abstract
Tachibana, C. (2014). A Scientist’s Guide to Social Media. Science, 28 February 2014.
Van Noorden, R. (2014). "Scientists and the Social Network." Nature, August 14, 2014, 512: 126-129.
Viñas, M. (2011). Why should scientists use Twitter? 20 July 2011. Retrieved from AGU Blogosphere http://blogs.agu.org/sciencecommunication/2011/07/20/why-scientists-use-twitter/
Yeo, S. K., M. A. Cacciatore, D. E. Brossard, D. A. Scheufele, M. A. Xenos. (2014). Twitter as the Social Media of Choice for Sharing Science. 13th International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference, May 2014, Salvador, Brazil. Retrieved from http://www.pcst-2014.org/pcst_proceedings/artigos/sara_k_yeo_et_al_oral_communication.pdf
Scientific Professional Societies and Twitter:
Dudley, S. (2014, 20 October). Tweeting better – #masterclass 1. Retrieved from British Ornithologists’ Union blog http://www.bou.org.uk/tweeting-better-1/
----------------. (2013, 13 December). Ornithological Twitterati, Tweetie-pies and #birdieluv. Retrieved from British Ornithologists’ Union blog http://www.bou.org.uk/birdieluv/
---------------. (2012, 8 August). Twitter – building an online ornithological community. Retrieved from British Ornithologists' Union blog http://www.bou.org.uk/twitter-building-an-online ornithological-community/#.VDOxgG_lYbI.twitter
---------------. (2012, 16 April). The global ornithological community. Retrieved from British Ornithologists’ Union blog http://www.bou.org.uk/blog-the-global-ornithological-community/
Lester, L. (2014, 8 September). #IAmANaturalist reclaim the name campaign celebrates natural history research.” Retrieved from Ecological Society of America blog www.esa.org/esablog/-and-society/iamanaturalis-reclaim-the-name-campaign-celebrates-natural-history-research/
----------------. (2014, 10 September). #IAmANaturalist storified. Retrieved from Ecological Society of America blog www.esa.org/esablog/-and-society/iamanaturalis-storified/
How journalists use social media:
Petersen, A. (2014, 6 May). Three charts that explain how U.S. journalists use social media. Retrieved from Washington Post blog http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/05/06/three-charts-that-explain-how-u-s-journalists-use-social-media/
Willnat, L. and D. H. Weaver (2014). The American Journalist in the Digital Age: Key Findings. Bloomington, IN: School of Journalism, Indiana University. Retrieved from http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2014/05/2013-american-journalist-key-findings.pdf