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miércoles, 9 de abril de 2014

Why should we scientists tweet?

I love tweeting. It has helped me connect with lots of chemists, learn from them and discover topics that I've never wondered about.

As you know I have been focusing more and more on education to the point of deciding I'm going to do a PhD in science education or chemical education. That led me to take some education courses this semester and in both of them I have to write a term paper on a subject I find interesting and relevant for chemical education.

In one of them I decided to talk about twitter and how it can help educate people about topics on chemophobia and more. From what I've learn and thought while doing this and by petiton of Joaquin Barroso (‏@joaquinbarroso) I'm writing this post about why should we tweet, ways we tweet and somethings I believe we could do to be better communicators to non-scientists. (though I consider myself far from being an expert on the subject) I’ll divide this in two. First post would be abput why should we… and the second one about how can we…

First of all lets talk a little about the trust people have on us as scientists. The GSS (General Social Survey)(Davis & Smith, 1991) is a sociological interview used to collect data about the demographic characteristics y thoughts of the residents of the US. This survey is done every year and it's widely used in sociological research. According to data collected in 2012 of 1259 people only 43% claimed to have complete confidence in the scientific community. 50% has some confidence and 7% no confidence. That means 57% of people would be very likely to not listen to a scientists and search their answers elsewhere.

This survey also asked " We are interested in how people get information about  science and technology. Where do you get most of your  information about science and technology (­ newspapers,  magazines, the Internet, books or other printed materials, TV,  radio, government agencies, family, friends, colleagues, or some  other source)?”
56.1% answered their first source would be the internet, where information is not necessarily trustful. And according to the information of the first question most people wouldn't look necessarily for a scientific source.

I remember a Nature Chemistry piece by Michelle Francl(Francl, 2013) where she talks about “ho to counteract Chemophobia.” In this article she says and I quote: “Cultural cognition theory builds on the established notions of biased assimilation and the availability heuristic: people are biased not only in the information they retain, but find it easier to recall information that supports their position. The theory goes even further and posits that the process of selecting credible sources can reinforce these biases…….instead we search out experts whose broad world view matches our own, liberal or conservative, hierarchally inclined or community minded.” Meaning people won’t trust us because we have a degree on science but because they feel we are similar to them, we share the same beliefs etc.
It’s obvious we scientists probably don’t strike as very relatable people. I believe that has to do a lot with the stereotypes surrounding scientists (PhD comics makes a great discussion here  But people don’t know we are not like that, I mean I’m a girly girl I love clothes and shoes and makeup and more shoes, it’s not only me though, Dr Isis (@drisis) loves tweeting about her shoes (which I love) and she also posts about her daily thoughts. Meaning we are not Amy Farrah Fowler. Most of us besides tweeting about what we do at work tweet when we are angry, when we are happy, when we are in trouble and when just whan to share something silly. I don’t know about other areas but we chemists have created a truly wonderful community on twitter and if outsiders read our tweets they would find out we are just like any of them. Yes we don’t have a 9 to 5 job (here we call those people Godinez) but we are not so different.

So the first answer I would give to “Why should we tweet” is because people can feel more related to us if we do, and that could help raise their trust in what we say.
Second point, people are not coming for us at least we could go to them. If we see a magazine or paper or people making wrong assumptions tweeter makes it very easy for us to raise our concerns or why they are wrong (although they may not listen).

Having also only 140 characters to tweet we are forced to be concise, if something short in 140 catches your attention you may feel the need to follow the link, ask the tweeter further questions and even do a little research on your own.

Putting the scicomm thing apart, tweeting inside a scientific community helps you meet new people (cheaper than going to a congress) and specially people you wouldn’t have met because they belong to a research area very different than yours. We can share information, discuss topics of importance, hear different opinions. Researchers can use tweeter to find potential students and to put their research out there.

I’ll write more on another post.. but I would really like to hear some feedback or opinions about what I just said. See you on twitter (@pinkyprincess :) )

Davis, J. A., & Smith, T. W. (1991). The NORC General Social Survey. SAGE Publications, Incorporated.
Francl, M. (2013). How to counteract chemophobia. Nature Chemistry, 5(6), 439–440. doi:10.1038/nchem.1661

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