3 Direct Benefits of Using Social Media for Scientists

3 Direct Benefits of Using Social Media for Scientists
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In my latest post on Signals, “How Online Outreach Adds Value to Scientific Research“, I start by tackling the question of why more than 50% of scientists don’t engage in online outreach at all. I then outline the benefits of using social media for scientists, focusing in particular on how online outreach can directly add value to their research.

Scientists: I have some questions.

Have you ever written a blog post about your field? Tweeted a link to a new scientific publication? Joined a forum discussion about the latest research?

As it turns out, your likelihood of answering “yes” to one or more of these questions is no better than a coin flip. Fifity-two percent of respondents to a 2014 Nature News survey reported never having engaged in an online discussion about research. The recent Pew Research Center’s survey of AAAS members backs up this statistic. Only 47% of their respondents reported using social media to discuss or follow science, and only 24% said they blog about science and research.

As I note, this is a huge problem given the host of science-related issues that have become public and political controversies in the last couple of decades. Engagement by scientists in public debates is crucial to maintaining the public’s trust in scientists.

The problem, it would seem, is that many of those same respondents didn’t perceive any concrete research or career benefits to engaging in outreach, with only 22% feeling that promoting their work on social media is important for career advancement. Indeed, in the Nature News survey only 43%, 30%, and 17% of respondents, respectively, felt that their online network was useful in attracting collaborators, future employers, or funding.

In short, scientists overwhelmingly agree that public engagement is good for Science™, but not particularly useful to advance their own science. Thankfully, there’s growing evidence that the latter sentiment is just wrong.

There’s a growing body of literature suggesting that outreach can have positive effects on a scientist’s career. Perhaps more importantly, given the effort and time investment necessary to build a robust online outreach platform, having a social media platform can directly benefit scientists’ research projects, making it easier to recruit participants in crowdsourced citizen science projects and to raise research funds via crowdfunding.

You can read the whole post HERE.

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