Early Career Researcher Toolbox: Social Media for Scientists

By Beth Kenkel

Before I started writing for the Addgene blog, sharing Chemistry Cat memes was how I used social media as a scientist. I mean, I had a LinkedIn page and a Twitter handle, but I wasn’t using them to my professional advantage. It wasn’t until I wrote a blog post about a research paper that explored how scientists connect on Twitter that I realized 1) a lot of scientists are using social media professionally, and 2) I needed to start using Twitter.

How social media has helped me in science

It may have taken a bit of FOMO to get me started, but now I’m using social media to help my research and my career. Here are three examples of how using social media has helped me or my lab mates:

  1. For me, using social media as a scientist started with the Addgene blog. I wrote my first blog post out of boredom. I had just started working in a new lab and I was the only person in the lab. When I saw a request for an Addgene guest blogger post about colony PCR, I signed up immediately. I had used colony PCR before and thought it was cool to share my knowledge with other scientists who maybe hadn’t used this method. I enjoyed writing the first post so I signed up to write a second. While working on this post, I was offered and accepted a position to work remotely as an Addgene Science Communication Intern. Developing science communication skills, while also learning about new scientific developments and helping scientists is a win-win for me.

  2. By using Twitter, I found this paper. I wrote an Addgene blog post about it and shared the paper with my lab since one of the AAV vectors in the paper seemed like it could help one of my lab mate’s with her project. Unfortunately the AAV didn’t give us the results we hoped for, but it did open up a new direction for the project.

  3. I was invited to participate on a panel about “Social Media for Science Communication” at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) 2018 Conference. I don’t exactly know how I was selected to participate on this panel, but my consistent writing for the Addgene blog (~1-2 blog posts per month) and use of Twitter and LinkedIn probably had something to do with it.

Five resources to help you get started with social media as a scientist

Using social media has enriched my professional development, and while it’s not challenging to use, it’s hard to know where to begin. To help others start using social media to their professional advantage, I’ve selected five resources that have tips for using social media as a scientist.

1. "5 Ways Scientists SHOULD Be Using Twitter" podcast from Hello PhD

In this podcast the hosts, Josh and Dan, discuss how scientists can start using Twitter and provide real-life examples of how they and others have used Twitter professionally. I especially love Dan’s advice to tap into the online conversations happening around a scientific conference, whether you are attending in person or monitoring that conference via social media. The podcast also features an interview with Dr. Stephani Page, the founder of the #BLACKandSTEM Twitter community. Dr. Page shares her story of how one seemingly innocuous tweet would not only helped her connect to other black scientists and engineers on Twitter, but also led to interviews on Al Jazeera and NPR, articles in magazines like Fast Company, opportunities to speak at conferences, and offers for postdoc positions. Check out the podcast for more tips on using Twitter as a scientist.

You can also find Dr. Page and Hello PhD on Twitter: @ThePurplePage and @HelloPhD

2. "The Scientist's Top 10 Guide to Twitter" blog post from Dr. Paul Knoepfler

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that Twitter is a tool worth using, but you might be wondering how to get started. This blog post outlines 10 steps to take when starting to use Twitter as a scientist. While this post is designed with beginners in mind, there’s some great reminders for Twitter pros as well, like tip #4: “Follow people for about a week and then unfollow those who do not capture your interest during that week.”

You can also find Dr. Knoepfler on Twitter: @pknoepfle

3. "Social Media as a Scientist: A Very Quick Guide" from Nature Jobs Blog

While Twitter is a popular platform for scientists, it’s not the only tool in a scientist’s social media toolbox. Besides advice for using Twitter, this post provides suggestions for using LinkedIn and Facebook. For each of the three social media platforms, there’s some statistics on what percent of scientists and engineers regularly use the platform, why scientists are using the platform, and tips for getting the most out of the site. I especially like the pointers on how to use LinkedIn to research potential future employers and to arrange informational interviews.

4. “Tips for Scientists Using Social Media" tip sheet from Science Media Savvy

This tip sheet provides advice for tweeting and blogging as a scientist. I know: more Twitter advice! But it’s worth a read since many of the pointers are different from the other links shared in the post. And the blog writing tips are elements I try to include in each post I write for the Addgene blog.

5. "Social Media in Your Working Day" video from Science Media Savvy

At this point, you might be be thinking social media could be useful, but it’s also one more thing on your to do list. This video shows quick ways social media can fit into a researcher’s work day. It’s also important to remember that it’s not the amount of time you spend on social media, but how you use social media to consistently engage with others about your topic(s) of interest.

Hopefully through these links, I’ve: 1) convinced you social media can positively impact your career, 2) given you tips for using various social media platforms, and 3) helped you fit social media into your busy schedule.

Has social media helped you advance your research or career? Share your story in the comments below!

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Additional resources on the Addgene blog

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Topics: Science Careers, Networking, Early Career Researcher

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