Making a Case for Social Media

Twitter can help scientists build networks, develop ideas, and spread their work, report says.

Erin Weeks
Sep 11, 2013


FLICKR, ANDREAS ELDHTwitter’s not just for the birds, argues a group of marine scientists in an Ideas in Ecology and Evolution report. The paper presents a case for more scientists to engage with one another and the public through social media like Twitter—a micro-blogging platform that allows users to send short messages and engage in two-way information flows—using examples drawn from the researchers’ own online networks.

“Many scientists may think they don't have time for Twitter,” lead author Emily Darling, a Smith Conservation Research Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the University of Miami. “But a little effort can provide enormous value for communication and outreach. The solution is to just give it a try.”

The researchers highlighted Twitter’s ability to help scientists build scholarly connections, refine ideas through pre-review, and amplify discussions of science to a broad audience. Twitter, they pointed out, provides an informal and low-investment way to reach a large virtual following, which can increase exponentially through retweets. Scientists can benefit from using Twitter to share their work at various stages of completion with potential collaborators and students, government officials, science journalists, and the public, the authors noted.

“We hope our experiences with social media, and Twitter in particular, will encourage hesitant scientists to give it a spin—we believe there can be great and unexpected value to including social media into the life cycle of a scientific paper,” the authors wrote.