ScienceOnline CLIMATE

scienceonlineclimateI am really not a climate expert or anything close but I am a fan of the ScienceOnline non-conference format, so I thought I’d just promote a bit the ScienceOnline Climate which runs today and tomorrow (15-16 August 2013) in Washington DC, USA.

ScienceOnline is about science communication using social media and other new media to communicate research and science understood in its broadest term. It’s mission is to cultivate the ways science is conducted, shared, and communicated online. It brings together a diverse group of researchers, science writers, artists, programmers, and educators who conduct or communicate science online. The goal is better science communication within the science community, with the public, and with policymakers.

I have only had the opportunity to participate in an ScienceOnline event in-person once, but have followed more online, and I must say I love the concept. ScienceOnline Climate narrows down the focus of science communication to looking at communication of climate related research. According to the planners the event “will explore the intersection of climate science, communication, and the web. Complex scientific concepts will be interwoven with creative communications approaches through the connective power of the internet. It will be an energizing experience for scientists, journalists, artists, policymakers, and attendees from all nodes of the climate communications ecosystem.”

Some sessions will be live-streamed and there will be lots of tweeting too on the hashtag #scioclimate. Take a look at the schedule for the conference to see if anything is of interest to you.


Become the ‘Ultimate Expert’ in Social MEDia

I need to update my business card with a new title. I am now a certified ‘Ultimate Expert’ in the use of social media in Medicine. This is a title I have achieved after completing the final module of the free online Social MEDia Course offered by Webicina.coma or more specifically by Bertalan Mesko, MD, PhD, a self-declared Medical Futurist, and founder of Webicina.com

The course is a spin-off of a university course offered to medical and public health students at the University of Debrecen, Hungary since 2008. Bertalan Mesko’s created the course as a response to the lack of digital literacy among doctors:

SocialMEDiacourse

“Social media are changing how medicine is practiced and healthcare is delivered. Patients, doctors, communication or even time management, everything is changing, except one thing: medical education.” 

After having run successfully for a few years and in response to requests from people abroad to travel to Hungary to follow the course, Bertalan decided to develop an online version of the course – making use of all that social media offer and continue his quest to change the attitude of future doctors and their knowledge about online issues and ultimately revolutionize medical education at a global level.

Prezis, YouTube and a lack of scientific knowledge

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The course is organized in 16 different modules all followed by a test, which you have to pass in order to achieve the badge (I felt a bit like a girl scout getting labels to put on my uniform). Each module consists of a Prezi, which systematically takes you through all corners of the topic. Pictures, YouTube videos, take home messages etc. makes the courses dynamic and fun, but at times also a bit commercial and sometimes a tending towards being too unscientific, especially for a university course I miss more solid data. The length of each course varies between one and two hours.

As with any other course, some modules work better than others, probably partly due to one’s interests and baseline knowledge level. I have taken the course over a long period of time (I think 6 months), so I can’t really recall all modules or which ones functioned better than others. Working myself with social media and public health I felt I had to complete the course and get the Ultimate Expert certification, but the modules can quite easily be taken on an individual basis according to one’s needs and interests. Actually, I think my recommendation would be to take the course on a topic by topic basis without aiming to go through all 16 modules unless you get totally hooked on the format. If one aims to take the full course I’d probably spread it over a few weeks or even months taking a module now and again. Going through too many Prezis in a day might make you a bit overwhelmed and the commercial side of the module gets a little too dominant. Besides, if you want to really learning something, you need not just take each module but afterwards experience using Twitter, trying out the possibilities of Wikipedia, engage in medical communities etc. In other words do it yourself.

modules

More medicine than public health

Although the course is meant also to target public health students it is my impression that the primary audience is medical students and doctors. This doesn’t make the course irrelevant to public health students/professionals or other non-medical-but-health-related professionals, but it just means that you do not always feel the content that relevant to you. There is a lot of focus on doctors-patients relationships and apps relevant for medical doctors etc. Relevant stuff but mostly to doctors.

Especially to new-comers to social media (for other than private purposes) the course provides a good baseline introduction to how Twitter works; what the idea behind Wikipedia is and how you can use it; and how social media opens up for entering new communities and crowd-source at a much larger scale. Social media as a tool for communications, finding resources etc. also makes some of the modules relevant to researchers in general.

Take notes!

As mentioned, each module is followed by a test containing 25 multiple choice questions, of which you have to answer at least 23 correctly to pass. For each questions you have 30 seconds to respond. The questions relate very closely to the Prezi and I can strongly recommended taking good notes. The test is really meant to test that you watched the whole Prezi and is not so much a test of what you actually learned. Questions like “What year was Google launched?” and “Who is the founder of the search engine Duckduckgo?” really requires good note-taking. Many questions are framed negatively, e.g. “‘Which is not a suggestion to avoid violating HIPAA?” which requires a lot of (unnecessary?) sentence analysis and can stress you out a bit, resulting in answering incorrectly to questions you actually do know the answers to. To my taste the tests are a bit too useless and doesn’t really add anything to your own learning. But I guess the objective has been to test that you paid attention throughout the Prezi and not that you actually learned anything (which is assumed you did if you know the Prezi by hard) or can apply what you learned. The tests (and Prezis) could use a good editing by an English native speaker, as it in many places is clear that it was developed by a non-native-English-speaker. For one module its okay, but if you take too many in a row you get a bit annoyed.

Interactive

In the spirit of social media the course is of course interactive and you are encouraged to comment and give suggestions for improvements. The response rate to comments is impressive and you have a feeling that your comments are taken seriously. You can also share your achievements (the badges you earn after passing each test) on Facebook and other social media and thus help spread the word not only about the course but in a way also promote the use of social media in medicine.

More academia, revised tests and further studies 

All in all the course is interesting, entertaining and an impressive amount of work has been put into developing it. I have learned a lot of good tips, but perhaps because my baseline knowledge of social media is above the average it wasn’t a big eye-opener to me. Being based on a university course, I would have expected a bit of a stronger academic basis of course. It heavily relies on YouTube videos, TEDtalks and lots of popular data. If I was to recommend anything for the future development of the course it would be to put a bit more ‘academic’ material in the modules. If not in the Prezis then perhaps as an additional recommended readings list. Also a test that feels more relevant to the student might be helpful and some tips on how to get started, or continue exploring the topic after each module might be a good idea.


Tweet your science!

I have several times thought about putting together a list of resources about social media for science communication, that would be handy to refer others to and useful for myself. I figured it should include published literature and blog posts about social media for science communication and guides on how to use it. But with new things published almost every day and life in general it has never really happened.

tweet your scienceBUT luckily someone else have been working on such a database, focusing mainly on Twitter! Lunched just a few days ago Tweet your Science sets out to diffuse scientists’ hesitation of getting on board social media by providing a guide, reviews, evidence and a database of scientists who are already on Twitter – everything the average scientist needs to start tweeting their science!

The person behind the website is Kimberley Collins who has created it as part of her Master’s in Science Communication at the University of Otago, New Zealand.

The website is extremely simple. Focus has thus far definitely been on content and not layout, and a first glance can send you off a bit confused. It’s not always clear where to click to get to the database, guideline or resources and intuitive links are missing here and there (for example it’s not possible to link directly to the guide but only to individual chapters of the guide). But when you dig into the resource pages it reveals itself to be quite comprehensive, and super useful.

A nice little feature in the resource section is that next to every linked article is a Twitter button so that you can directly share the article with your followers on Twitter. Very much in the spirit of tweeting science.

The Guide to Twitter provides step by step guidelines from how you create an account, edit your profile, start tweeting and start to follow others. It also explains Twitter abbreviations such as MT, RT and HT. Even the least IT savvy person should be able to get on Twitter following this guide.

Tweet your Science is of course also on Twitter (@tweetyoursci) and Facebook.

As part of the launch festivities, an official launch and panel discussion will be held on Friday the 2nd of August 2013 at the Centre for Science Communication in Dunedin, New Zealand – it will of course be streamed live and participation in the form of questions and comments from around the world is encouraged by tweeting to @tweetyoursci.

I look forward to going through the resource list and to following the further development of this great initiative.