Disseminating science via social media

Even though much of our society and even our very lives is built upon and made possible through scientific advances, there is a significant anti-science bias in the United States–coming from people across the political spectrum.

One way to try and overcome this bias is for scientists to communicate directly (and understandably) with the general public–rather than stay within the scholarly communication cycle (which provides more rewards in academia).  Beyond writing for newspapers, popular magazines, doing interviews, etc., some scientists have also turned to social media as a way to reach the public.

Here, building an audience is key; is there a threshold beyond which the communication reaches more non-scientists?

A recent study “analyzed the Twitter followers of more than 100 faculty members in ecology and evolutionary biology.”  For those who had less than 1,000 followers, the majority of those followers were other scientists–an average of 60%.  But, once scientists’ Twitter accounts broke through the 1,000 follower level, “the range of follower types became more diverse and included research and educational organizations, media, and members of the public with no stated association with science.”  The greater the number of non-scientist followers, the reach of the scientists’ Twitter accounts increased exponentially “because those [non-scientist] Twitter accounts typically had larger followings than scientist-run accounts.”

Read the article (Jeffrey Brainard, Science, August 3, 2018).

For more information about the impacts of social media, search Science Primary Literature (database) and see:

Using Facebook and Instagram: effects on well-being and mental health (from Science Bibliographies Online).

Questions? Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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