Author: Chris Petranek, a PhD candidate studying bumble bee physiology
"That some scientists’ social media following outstrips their citation count should not imply a lack of credibility. If all scientists were more Kardashian-like in their ability to influence the public, we might not
be living in a “post-truth” era."
For better or worse, carefully curating an internet presence is a key component of any professional career in 2017. This wholesome avocation can range from maintaining a savvy personal website to merely making sure your Facebook profile won’t preclude an interview. Social media outlets are a great way for others to collect information about you, so you may as well use them to your advantage. For most, that means leveraging personality and interesting content to advertise a product or advocate for a desired outcome. If you know the ropes, social media platforms are great for getting your message to reach content consumers worldwide.
Such an inexpensive means for distributing information widely seems especially well suited to scientists seeking to engage the public. To this end, social media can be so effective some scientists are concerned that online presence is overshadowing the importance of quality research. Thus, the “Kardashian Index”, for pitting online communication reach against citation count.
Neil Hall proposed the "K-index" in 2014 to measure scientists' social media fame (# of twitter followers) with respect to their scientific renown (approximated by citation count).
Reassuringly, these preliminary data suggest one’s social media popularity is correlated with their popularity in the scientific community. However, that some scientists’ social media following outstrips their citation count (“Kardashians”) should not imply a lack of credibility. If all scientists were more Kardashian-like in their ability to influence the public, we might not be living in a “post-truth” era.
“Post-truth” refers to the salient observation by nerds nationwide that lay-audiences are not swayed by torrents of numerical observations. There is thus ongoing debate in the scientific community about whether celebrity influencers are useful for communicating science issues broadly via social media. Some say that the ends justify the means, but others are hesitant to have non-specialists speak out about pressing issues in science (Galetti & Costa-Pereira 2017, Mojarad 2017).
Author: Heather Speckman, a PhD candidate studying big data and tree physiology
"I shoot trees for science."
Hello, my name is Heather Speckman I will be your blog master for this week! Where to start talking about me…. Yes, I am a scientist, but I feel that term comes with such stereotypes and frankly…. Frankly it’s Friday and I’m not in the mood for stereotypes. So I hereby dub this "Stereotype Slaying Friday"!
Let’s talk about what a scientist actually is and is not.
Stereotype Number #1: Scientists wear lab coats.
Well, I’m a scientist and I do have a lab coat…. I wear it like twice a year when I need to bleach things. Here’s some other gear I use:
Author: Daniel Beverly, PhD candidate studying plant physiology
"One of the most challenging components of science communication is developing the
ability to modify levels of complexity based on response and cues from the target audience."
This seems to be a significant challenge due to variable reasons but two major ideas are evident.
Firstly, scientist rarely receive training in such skills as the academic dogma of publish or perish diverts interest away from the public when conveying scientific results.
Secondly, academics are well versed in the defense of their research on a professional stage but reframe from defending their findings in public due to fears of losing academic credibility of crossing over into advocacy or political figures.
Moves to train scientist to communicate science are becoming more relevant with increased competition for funding, transparency of research, and science advocacy across disciplines.
Further, scientist are tired of being punching bags in the political arena. Scientist are becoming frustrated getting their data and results misinterpreted or mis-conceptualized, fitting a story favoring partisan agendas. Thus, a large effort has been made to increase the transparency into a scientist’s life by engaging a broader audience and defending their findings before media outlets can misconstrue the fundamental stories.
Communicating contentious science ideas is most effective with an integrative and non-threatening stance incorporating community involvement.
Author: Daniel Beverly, PhD candidate studying plant physiology
"Abstract concepts need to be explained at local community level producing memories, not factoids."
Scientists need to get back to interacting and communicating at the local level with informative and positive messaging and reattaching themselves as local figures. Connecting to the community increases the science networks that stimulate speculative conversations on science removing the obstacle of science does not influence me. A large issue on this disconnect appears to be product of poor fundamental education and not physically being able to see or touch some of the more abstract mechanisms in the world around us.
This year one of the most-witnessed events may have been the kick-start science communication needed. The Great American Eclipse was one of the greatest results of science communication that I can ever recall.
Author: Chelsea Duball, PhD candidate studying soils
"While scientists face many challenges in
pursuing interdisciplinary research and
scientific communication, it has become undeniable that we need to see more of the two."
Amidst the wonder that exists between science and art, lie even deeper depths, layers, and forms of the two...
One of the greatest of these layers, is interdisciplinary research. No, I am not talking about when 20+ soil scientists collaborate together to rewrite the whole soil classification system for the U.S. (trust me, this can get ugly). Although collaborations such as this are important within a specific discipline, interdisciplinary research holds its own unique benefits.
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