The age of social media has brought about a new era in scientific communication and collaboration. Academics are increasingly turning to platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to share their work with others, connect with colleagues, and engage with a broader audience. In this blog post, we'll explore the impact of social media on scientific progress and provide insights on how to make the most of this powerful tool.
Social media offers a unique opportunity to source data, advertise for research participants, and present new information. And with web-based broadcasting becoming the standard means of educating the public, researchers can expand their work's readership (and impact) far beyond what was previously possible. Expansion of communication and knowledge about scientific issues can also increase pressure on government bodies to prioritize matters of importance, which could impact policy.
Social media has also significantly grown the potential for collaboration and networking within the scientific community. A survey of UK academics found that online encounters" included tweets that led to paper requests, posts that sparked new scientific collaborations, and blogs that produced invitations to public lectures or panel discussions" . Scientists can use social media to share preliminary results and solicit feedback from the community, establishing impactful feedback loops that can influence the direction of a project. Research shows that papers shared on social media have more citations . Scientific journals are also becoming aware of the power of social media, with many requesting authors prepare a tweet when submitting articles. Additionally, social media presents new opportunities to connect with conferences, presentations, and speakers without physical limitations.
In the past, peer-reviewed research publications with restricted membership, subscription-only access, and associated costs limited open access to high-level scientific literature. The free and unlimited reach of today's social media allows researchers to contribute to discussions on a global scale, breaking down traditional barriers such as geography, institutional affiliation and limited budgets.
As a researcher, using social media presents several challenges. One of the main challenges is that a researcher's success is highly dependent on their sphere of influence.
The pressure to demonstrate the impact of research to secure funding or promotions is another challenge. Traditional measures like the number of citations do not fully capture the significance of a finding, particularly when considering the influence and societal impact that can be achieved through social media .
Furthermore, disinformation on social media can erode trust in accurate information and reduce the credibility of scientific findings shared on these platforms . However, scientists can actively combat misinformation by sharing accurate content and educating the public through social media. Additionally, if you choose not to share your work, there is the risk that someone else will interpret (or misinterpret) it for you .
Using social media as a scientist can be a great way to increase the impact of your work. However, it's essential to approach it with a strategic mindset.
First, find the right platform to connect based on your goals. While LinkedIn and Twitter are currently the dominant platforms for dissemination, social media platforms change quickly, and it's necessary to keep up. Be sure to tailor the language and type of messaging for the target audience and the platform you use to ensure your message is easily understood. For example, if you want to use social media for participant recruitment, you'll need a different strategy than if you were looking for potential collaborators.
Second, formulate your digital identity. Building your scientific brand by creating useful and consistent content that aligns with your area of interest is vital to establish yourself as a trusted voice in your field. A solid digital identity can serve as a career accelerator, so always remember to maintain professionalism and avoid sharing anything on social media that you wouldn't say in a conference setting.
Finally, find like-minded people. Investing time in building your network can lead to introductions with a more extensive network and facilitate future collaborations. Consistent social media participation is essential for growing your following and developing your brand. You can share articles, comment, tag other community members, and promote your professional achievements.
With opportunities for interaction, cooperation, and communication, social media is a rising tool for knowledge translation and engagement with a broader audience. By understanding the impact of social media on scientific progress and following best practices, researchers can benefit from this powerful tool.