What defines a (successful) scientist? Their collaborations, their Phd supervisor, their students, who they cite, conferences they attend and citations of their publications all indicate what field they belong to and how successfull they are as a researcher.
In short, scientists are defined by their network of influence.
This is a brief blog on using social media to enhance your research network. It has been prepared as a supplement for my talk at the Australian Rivers Institute (13/6/2017), but should also stand alone.
A great way to learn how to blog is to start copying the style of other people who are good at it.
A good way to find out who is good at blogging (or social media in general) is to look at the Altmetrics for your favourite papers.
Altmetrics will give you a influence score for a paper that includes among other things the number of blogs it could detect. You can get a handy link for your browser to quickly view Altmetrics here.
If you have your own blog, make sure you get it registered with Altmetrics. Also make sure you include a link or DOI for your paper in the blog.
There are many ways to write a blog, but to start I recommend writing about one of your research articles. You want to hit the points below, making sure that the significance of the work, the problem you addressed and the solutions are given priority. Methods and detailed lit review are less important (or don’t even include them!):
A reasonable blog structure:
Another key style point is to write for a generalist audience (e.g. avoid jargon), even if you are aiming it at specialists. Making it easier for specialists to read will mean they are more likely to read it too.
Naturally you are already on my blog, so check out some of my blogs about research papers e.g. here.
I also recommend you check out the Australian Rivers Institute Catchment to Coast blog.
In my talk I will give the example of Tyson Martin’s post as a recent one that emphasises signficance in an easily accessible way.
I love The Conversation. Their blogs are written for a generalist audience - their style guide encourages readibility for highschool students, but even discpline experts can learn a lot from this blog.
In fact, I reckon one of their main followings is probably scientists. So you will reach your colleagues as well as a broader audience if you write for The Conversation.
The Conversation does blogs about research papers, but also emphasises topical issues too.
For instance, a couple examples I give in my seminar are The 2017 budget has axed research to help Australia adapt to climate change and Could ‘nitrogen trading’ help the Great Barrier Reef?.
If you want to learn how to blog about opinons or interesting facts as an individual, try these two entertaining ecologically orientated blogs:
Hakai Magazine, Cool Green Science and The Conversation all accept ‘pitches’ for new articles from scientists. So if you have a great paper coming out, or have an informed opinion on a topical event, write them and ask to blog about it.
To get started, here are a couple of good examples of tweets about research papers:
Some things to notice are:
There are a number of different Twitter strategies you can take, or mix and match. Here are some examples:
In addition to thinking about how social media can benefit your research career, its worth thinking about potential costs.
While it can be time-efficient and cost-effective (i.e. no plane flights required to talk with overseas colleagues) way to communicate, it can also be a time sink. Personally, I only leave myself a limited amount of time for social media. e.g. I tweet on the bus and I usually set myself an hour max to finish a blog.
I think writing fast blogs can actually help make you a more efficient scientific writer.
Another potential risk in expanding your communication network is that some people might not like what you have to say. While some people thrive of confrontation, other people (like me!) feel uncomfortable about it.
Commonsense prevails here. Be courteous, acknowledge other people’s views and keep your conversations professional.
An extreme case of confrontation is getting trolled. That is someone who deliberately sets out to demean your views and offend you. Good general advice is to ignore trolls, they are looking for a response. Most social media platforms offer a blocking option too, so you might want to use that.
I will say that people’s experiences of social media will vary depending on context. In particular, I know a lot of female colleagues are concerned about sexism. Unfortunately, if you are a women and become a well known communicator you will almost certainly recieve sexist comments.
I don’t want to put women off of using social media. Instead, I hope we can encourage a more forthright conversation about appropriate behaviour on social media. I also want to highlight this issue to men, who may not be aware of it. Guys, be supportive of your female colleagues engaging with public communication. You can help by calling people out on sexist comments (here’s one recent example).
Social media can also be a force for good when it comes to sexism. For instance, two women who submitted an article to PLoS One recieved a review saying the paper would be better with a male coauthor.
Tweets about their experience resulted in public outrage from the scientific community. Ultimately the handing editor was asked to step down from PLoS and PLoS has reviewed its reviewing practices.
So social media can help level the playing field and improve equity in scientific careers.
Hope you found this helpful. Have fun out there on the network.
In short, successful scientists are good networkers. Social media helps us enhance our networks.