Going from a distant Twitter to a LinkedIn social web life

As I wrote in my first post on this blog, I do very much feel like a beginner at using social web media, although I have been on Facebook LinkedIn etc. for what feels like a long time now.

But I must say that new worlds are opening themselves to me. Here just a few words on some of my experiences.

LinkedIn groups

LinkedIn was to me previously a place where I just accepted the invitation from my friends as they joined. Rarely did I check out their profiles and all I knew of it was that within certain sectors it was a good place to look for jobs. However, LinkedIn is much more than this. It is a window opening up for direct access to people all across the globe who work on or are interested similar topics. Even when one thinks no one else works on that particular issue, LinkedIn is a way to prove one wrong. I recently joined the group “Global Public Health” and through active participation in one of the discussions I have gained so much more than I imagined. Contact to people interested in the same issues, access to project I didn’t know existed and realisation that social web media really does mean social. The interest from others and willingness to share contacts, ideas, recommendations etc. is overwhelming. It has all resulted in that I now find myself adding to my LinkedIn contacts people I have never met before in real life, but who indeed it does make sense to be linked to. I really look forward to exploring further (eg. through the “groups you may like” function) how LinkedIn can connect me to relevant people, stories, projects and so on. Only worry is right now: Can one become member of too many groups, networks, etc.?

(for newcomers to LinkedIn this guide might be useful in getting started)


My Twitter account (@bjerglund) was created a looong time ago. But never used. I must say I didn’t really get what the point was or what the added value was of a service that only contains status updates (using Facebook terminology). Neither did I understand why the media kept referring to this as one of the most powerful tools of the people. BUT, also for Twitter I now realise that I had lots to learn. I definitely still have a long way to go, but already I see a lot of advantages. Once you get a hang of the concept it really is very easy and after some trial and errors I now follow the tweets of some really cool people. In my case these cool people are especially enthusiasts in the field of science/public health, communication and social media. It provides much inspiration and opens up the world to things I am quite convinced I would not have come across otherwise. A function of Twitter that has been very useful to me in learning to use Twitter has been the “retweet” function. This is a great tool to help in identify new people who could be relevant to follow. Another enlightenment for me have been how strongly Twitter and the world of blogs is connected. Through Twitter I have become aware of the coolest blogs, projects, websites etc. AND have been able to spread the word about my own blog to others. I still find it fascinating that people, whom I have never meet or spoken a word,  are followers of my tweets. With regards to my own tweeting skills I still have a long way to go, but hopefully that will improve. Also in using the hashtag (#) function there are lots to learn, but I do see the advantages of the function in connecting with more people, but also in information gathering. Doing a search on Twitter is almost as important as a search on Google is one want latest updates on what is happening.

(for newcomers to Twitter this guide might be useful especially in learning the Lingo)

As a beginner in this world, all suggestions on how I make even better use of these new dimensions of my world are of course welcome. In the mean time I’ll surf around out there and keep following people, take part in discussions, tweet and retweet, follow links and recommendations for further reading and so on. I look forward to meeting you out there.

Journalism and science communication

Just thought that I’d share a few links to some articles about the relation between science, journalism and science communication through times. To me they give an interesting perspective on how social media is an obvious channel for communicating science to both a narrow and a broad audience and how it is linked to the previous formats for communicating between scientists.

I both articles references are made to how scientists in pre-scientific journal and early-scientific journal times used letter correspondence to discuss, comment and criticise each others theories, methods, findings and conclusions. The use of letters and the sharing for the content of these letters at scientists meetings.

Read the two posts, both are well articulated and contain fun and surprising examples of how Albert Einstein for example was not the biggest fan of peer-review.

The line between science and journalism is getting blurry….again” by Bora Zivkovic in Scientific American, 20 December 2010.
Richard Smith: Scientific communication is returning to its roots” by Richard Smith on BMJ group blogs, 26 July 2011


Schools of Public Health 1.0 or 2.0?

Who does research in public health sciences? Searching for who and how social media is used to communicate public health research, this question all of a sudden becomes relevant. The answer is of course quite trivial. Lots of institutions and organisations conduct research in public health related issues. The spectrum goes across from private industries and organisation (both profit and non-profit) over semi-private organisation to public institutions such as universities and other government financed research organisations.

Taking a closer look at universities, I have surfed around the internet trying to find out if and to what extend Schools of Public Health have gone on board in the possibilities of web 2.0. Both when it comes to communicating their research as well as just general presence. And what I have found is perhaps not surprising, but in a globalised world I still believe it is worth a thought. What I find is that there seems to big differences across the Atlantic ocean. Starting with my own university (University of Copenhagen) and the Department of Public Health the use of social networks, blogs etc. is really very limited. And they are not alone. It has actually been surprisingly difficult to find examples of use of social web media amongst Schools of Public Health outside the US. Being well aware that I due to language barriers have not been able to go through non-English websites and only having done a limited number of general searches it still surprises me a little. The intentions to share knowledge and research are definitely there. For example the Department of Public Health at University of Copenhagen writes on their website with regards to public outreach:

“In its endeavour to improve public health and deepen understanding of the links between health and society, Department researchers communicate health knowledge and research results through scientific journals and other printed and electronic media, as well as in workshops, seminars and conferences. These propagation efforts seek to establish a debate-oriented dialogue among relevant actors.”

However, the Department does not have anything like a Facebook profile, a LinkedIn group, a Twitter account or the like. Neither is it from the website possible to be guided to any blogs or other platforms that allows for this debate-oriented dialogue which they seem interested in obtaining. And this is perhaps a missed opportunity. Neither the Department of Public Health Sciences at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have much to offer. The Institute itself have a Facebook group, but that seems to be it. With exceptions of course this very limited use of social web media seems to be the general trend across European schools of Public Health. The majority still seem to be on a 1.0 stage.

For links to  European Schools of Public Health look at ASPHER’s (Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region) list of members.

Turning the attention to the US, American Schools of Public Health seem to be adapting better to the social web media possibilities. A good example is UNC Gilings School of Global Public Health. They are present on Facebook, Twitter and have as one of the few an easily accessible Blog Central where they link to both an official blog by the dean as well as blogs by different staff and students of the university. The blogs varies just as much as people and do not follow the same formula. However, since every topic and every author will have a different prefered format the variation only makes sense.

Looking at other schools of public health in the US quite a lot of them are on eg. Facebook and Twitter and also LinkedIn and uses the sites to communicate what they do and what happens at the school (eg. Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Boston University, Tulane University etc.). As with the European schools of Public Health there are of course exceptions but here I would say the general trend is a much stronger attempt to make use of web 2.0.

For links to  American Schools of Public Health look at ASPH’s (Association of Schools of Public Health) list of members, who BTW also have a presence on social web media and offers their members help in developing Facebook and Twitter outreach campaigns.

In comparison to ASPH, the European sister association ASPER (Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region) have very limited use of social web media sites apart from a ASPHER blog, through which research from different member schools is highlighted.

From the above it could sound like being online is a quality in it self, but this is not my point. I have not yet gone into the specific sites and can draw no conclusions at this stage whether American schools of Public Health are better than their European sister schools in reaching new audiences in their research communication, are entering into new dialogue etc. But I’ll be curious to look more into that… What does seem like a trend to me at this stage (will keep exploring!) is that an Atlantic ocean makes a difference in whether a School of Public Health is 2.0 or 1.0.

Can a governmental public health institution blog about zombies?

As a previous employee of the Danish National Board of Health I was a few years ago involved in the development of the new website. The website had to live up to the new possibilities of web 2.0. However, the inclusion of social web media and dialogue functions were, after many discussions, not made part of the website. The arguments were among others that entering into an online public dialogue with the citizens would potentially lead to problems on responding to individual cases and making personal sensitive data publicly available. I wondered whether these arguments were valid enough to disregard completely the social dimension. Today, I believe that there are many ways to make use of social web media functions also on a governmental website. Both to inform the public, to share new knowledge and to detect and respond to public needs.

That it can be done is the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and example of through their presence on Twitter, Facebook and their blog “Public Health Matters”. The blog is updated almost daily and the comments function actively used. The posts are related to current public health issues such as hurricanes, outbreaks of infectious diseases etc. A post that have initiated many comments is a post titled Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.  Framed as an emergency preparedness guide in the event a Zombie Apocalypse the post informs of basic disaster preparedness measures the public can take and explains the role of CDC in emergency situations. An alternative way of getting a public health message across. Perhaps it is exactly the more informal format of the blog that makes such an approach possible.

Another example of a public health institution actively using social media is the Health Council of Canada. Their blog is used to highlight activities of the council, new reports and activities from various Canadian health initiatives. The initiation and findings from research studies such as population surveys are also presented and commented on the blog. In addition, the blog is used as a forum for the council to comment on their own activities, thus the chair of the council have posts on the blog, as does the lead persons of various departments.

The Danish National Board of Health are still not online in the 2.0 sense. Searching twitter and Facebook nothing pops up. Only for specific health prevention campaigns (primarily targeted young people) is Facebook actively used. The National Institute of Public Health are equally absent when it comes to blogs, social networks etc. This is a shame I think. Lots of interesting public health research is going on and reaching beyond the traditional communication platforms is both relevant and necessary. It is after all public health we are talking about. It doesn’t necessarily have to be through zombies that the issues are being communicated, but perhaps CDC’s Zombies could provide some good inspiration.

Any hints to public health institutions using social media to communicate with the public are welcome. And communicating public health research inparticular.

Blogs and peer-reviewed journals

For the last couple of months I have been searching the internet for good (and bad) examples of social web media used to communicate Public Health research. And although Public Health is not the dominating topic on scholarly web 2.0 communication the variety is still great. Putting the magnifying glass on blogs it becomes clear that scholarly blogs really do come in all shapes and sizes.

Among the many different kinds of blogs, it has been interesting to see how some of the traditional peer-reviewed journals now also offer blog platforms. BMJ is one of the high-impact journals that have an elaborate blog platform. With a total of 18 blogs in categories  ranging from “Disease in Childhood” over “Tobacco control” to “Medical Ethics” several public health topics are covered. The activity level on the 18 blogs differs. For some the post frequency is higher than for others and the extend of comments varies too. Also the objective of the blogs are different, ranging from providing a platform for discussion to highlighting articles from other journals (e. the Heart Journal Scan which recommends cardiology related articles from non-cardiology journals). The blogs come with the function of regular blogs such as comments and posting it on Twitter, Facebook etc.

Other peer-reviewed journals also have blogs under their domain. This includes Nature, and PLoS who has both an official PLoS blog and PLoS blog network with more issue specific blogs. Eg. the staff of PLoS has a blog  and individual researchers have blogs related to their field.

Reading these blogs it makes me wonder what the reflection behind initiating them have been. What were the concerns and perceived benefits? How is the blog thought to relate to the “mother” peer-reviewed journal? Why does BMJ have a blog, but not the Lancet? Does the concept of the blog interfere with the fundamentals of the peer-reviewed approach? The questions are many.

Yesterday a friend of mine, and researcher herself said that she didn’t really give much for social media in research communication. But when I mentioned blogs of journals like Nature her response was  “It is funny, I do not really consider blogs as social media”. Perhaps blogs associated to journals washes out mentally some of the objections people have towards the combination of research and blogs. Perhaps the possibility of commenting is taken more and more for granted? I do not know the reasons, but it would be interesting to find out more about this…

to write, to write, to write

I like writing, so I guess it is only right to get started on some blogging. Actually, it is practically part of my job description to be out here on the social web media and I am a happy reader of several blogs so others might say that it is highly overdue. For a while I have, in the hidden been working on something for a blog. I guess you could call it a draft. But I realized that this is a completely wrong strategy. Blogs are much more spontaneous than doing drafts and have them edited etc. The point of a blog is precisely to write more loosely and frequently. So never mind if it is not always sharp and to the point.   So here we go: My first posting. And since the “draft” shouldn’t go to waste I will post it below. Enjoy

A Typhoon’ish Chaos

Social web media. Science communication. Public health. Those are the keywords for my new job, for my pilot study. They are also the words I generally use when I try to explain to friends and family what I do. Putting them into a sentence it becomes something like this : “Well I will be looking at how social web media can be used to communicate research in Public Health Sciences”.

So lets see what I know so far. Public health, as broad as it might be, I do know something off. At least six years at University and about five years of working with public health should give me a somewhat solid background.

Communication I feel pretty comfortable with too, and even science communication to some extend. Mostly from a practical point of view. Writing journalistic stuff. Some theory too, but I guess mostly linked to the practice.

Okay, there we go. Then there is only social web media left. How difficult can it be? I mean, I’m on Facebook, I read blogs once in a while, and I do have a twitter account. Never used it, but it is there. LinkedIn I use too. I am even part of a public health alumnae network that once in a while sends out small discussions and job vacancies. However being on these networks doesn’t really make me an expert on social web media – far from actually.

Okay, so much for my introductions to my pilot study. I guess I better just get started. I gotta start surfing the net. Find some good examples of communication of public health research through social web media. Examples must be out there. I just have to find them, and then patterns and trends will pop up along the way. I hope.

I have been warned that it is The Wild West out there. An inferno of rubbish, with good attempts and intentions, small shining pearls and good potential hid in between lots of more or less crappy stuff (at least crappy when what I am looking for is scientific research). And the people who warned me are right I realize pretty quickly. It really is a small or perhaps gigantic chaos, where every search words opens up to what feel like thousand different things, links and genres. So where to start? Just that question opened up for a billion more. In this inferno of websites, blogs, discussion groups and social network groups lots of questions present themselves.

  • Exactly what kind of communication am I looking at? Sharing of results, discussion of processes, open-ended discussions, forums for expressing opinions? I could go on – there are so many kinds
  • And to communication between whom? Researcher to researcher, researcher to students, researcher to public, to politicians, to specific target groups or practitioner to public?
  • With what intentions? To take credit, to pursued and convince, to seek help, to enable change, to discuss, to share thoughts, to be inspired, to inspire, to be seen?
  • Through specific genres of social web media or are we “are all over the place”?
  • Through quality approved and institutional hosted sites like peer-reviewed journals websites, universities etc. or also private initiatives?
  • Only lasting initiatives or also short-lived blogs, twitters etc.
  • How broad should we understand “public health” and are certain topics within public health more suitable than others of communicating via social web media?

Answering each of these questions opens up for what looks like a typhoon’ish chaos and makes me wonder why it was I got myself into this. How am I – no expert in social web media – ever going to find my way of this storm I have gotten myself into?

Well these were my first thoughts – more to follow. At least I got my first post out there.!