Back!… to a battlefield for researchers?

A year (almost to the date) has passed since my last blog post. How did time pass so quickly?* And how in the world do I get started on this blog again? Following developments in public health science communication and social media for science communication mostly from the sideline, how will I know what’s the latest development? Am I up to speed to write about this topic?

The battlefield of Facebook

FullSizeRender (1)

And then this weekend as I was flipping through the latest issue of the magazine of my Danish work association DJOEF, I came across this headline: “Forskerfejde på Facebook” (trans. Researcher fight on Facebook). A short article about Facebook as a place where researchers who dare to put themselves and their research out there are bullied and criticized and how social media is a big challenge for people working in academia. Although I agree that Facebook and other social media in some ways represent a challenge for the academic world, I was sad to see that we in Denmark apparently still are at level were social media is regarded only as a challenge and not as an opportunity for science and science communication.

FullSizeRenderThe article is in Danish but the illustration of the article is universal and very much covers the focus of the article: Social media is a fora for heavy criticism, for fights, bullying, hitting each other in the head and the researcher who enters the world of Facebook need to have tough skin and be prepared to be hammered by both their peers and the public. The rules of the game of are different. Social media have altered the premises for how scientific results can be discussed, is a key message in the article.

Focusing on the negative sides

Although short, the article is supported by a few cases of scientists fighting over Facebook. There are even a couple of researchers calling out for keeping discussions to the already existing academic circles and journals. But is this really a telling picture of how social media is used and the consequences they have in the Danish academic world today. I know the answer is no. So why, do I ask myself, why did the journalist not bother to find a positive case story as well or why didn’t he broaden out the focus from just Denmark to also look at international experiences and trends in using social media? At least just make a small mention of it. Yes, conflicts and dramas make good stories, but I think it is misleading only to portray the battles and disagreement and argue that only researchers with tough skin can successfully use social media.

Compulsory science communication education

The article confirms me in the fact that we still have a long way to go in taking in social media in science communication in Denmark. Much progress has been made over the last year for sure, but still I feel a dominating skepticism towards using these open interactive media in science. As is rightly pointed out by a specialist in social media from University of Roskilde and quoted in the article, we can only expect social media to play a larger and larger role in the scientific debate. Being in agreement with this, I really hope that science communication education and training, including using social media in the research process, could be made compulsory for all university students. Social media have so much potential for science communication that it would be a shame if all researchers who do not feel their skin is ‘tough enough’ would refrain from using it.

I’m back

So with this sad reassurance that there is still a lot to do on science communication and social media and lots of experiences to harvest from the world, I am happy to take up this blog again and explore, comment, recommend, learn and share with all of you what I find.

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*answer: a lovely little girl came in the way


Systematic review: Social media for health communication

JMIRBack to the real world after two weeks in amazing Japan, I found in my Twitter profile a link to a recently published article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. It didn’t take more than reading the title to know that this article could be interesting – at least for someone like me:

“A New Dimension of Health Care: Systematic Review of the Uses, Benefits, and Limitations of Social Media for Health Communication”

Based on 98 original research studies the authors have set out to review published literature on social media for health communication in order to identify the uses, benefits, and limitations of social media for health communication among the general public, patients, and health professionals. Secondly, they aim to identify current gaps in the literature and provide recommendations for future health communication research.

The paper gives a comprehensive overview of the topic and the reference section is a great resource list.

If you’re not up for reading the paper in its entirety, three of the tables gives a great summary of the findings. Follow the link to the paper above or check out the tables at the end of this post.

What about science communication?

One thing that strikes me is that if you take a look at table 3, which lists the different uses of social media for health communication, the use of social media for communicating science and research in health is not on it. Neither when it comes to research communication between health professionals nor communicating health related research to the public is mentioned. An interesting and slightly surprising find I would say. Granted, it could to some extend figure under the categories ‘Providing health information’, ‘Proving answers to medical questions’ and ‘Facilitate dialogue between patients and health professionals’, but none the less it is not a category in it self. Whether this is because it has not be the focus of any research studies, or doesn’t take place at all is hard to tell. I believe (and hope) however, that it is the later.

None the less, the article underscores the growing role and importance of social media in health and in health communication, and shows that it cannot and should not be ignored.

Table 3 – Uses of social media for health communication 

Table 3 - JMIR

Table 4 – Benefits of using social media for health communication –

Table 4 - JMIR

Table 5 – Limitations of social media for health communicationTable 5 - JMIR



When someone else writes convincingly why scholars should be on Twitter

Sometimes it just seems silly to duplicate other people’s words when they have used just the right phrases and words to say something.

The blog post “How to use Twitter” by PhD student in Molecular Pharmacology at the University of Aberdeen, Heather Doran gave me a little bit of that feeling. By sharing her own experiences, Heather writes about her efforts to get every other ph.d. student she meets to join Twitter! The blog post contains lots of good tips and arguments for why every PhD student and other researchers should get that Twitter account and start using it as part of their academic career. There are also tips to some Tweeters to follow.

So to save words: check out Heather Doran’s blog post “How to use Twitter” (and other posts on her blog Happy Science) and follow her on Twitter @hapsci.


ScienceOnline2012 – a look at the sessions on students and online science communication

Is it possible to split oneself into several Is? Could I perhaps borrow Hermione’s time turner next week and thus be able to travel back in time? Both would be great solution to this small problem I have. Next week, I’m attending the ScienceOnline2012 conference (see more below) in North Carolina, and the programme is simply packed with super interesting sessions – many of them taking place in parallel.

I will not try to summarize the full agenda of the conference, but encourage you to take a look at it yourself. Even if you can’t attend there will surely be lots of live-tweeting from it.With a masters course in Public Health Science Communication coming up this fall at University of Copenhagen, (mentioned in earlier posts), it seems only relevant to try and make it to some of the sessions that focus on students and science communication. I have listed some of them below. It looks like a great place to get some inspiration on both tools to integrate into the classes (eg. blogs), and topics and themes to bring up. It will also be great to hear from students who themselves have blogged and acted as messengers of science.

Blogging in the undergraduate science classroom (how to maximize the potential of course blogs)

Thursday January 19, 2012 2:45pm – 3:45pm

This session will mainly feature a roundtable discussion of “best practices” for incorporating blogs into undergraduate courses. Possible topics that will be covered: Developing, evaluating, and grading assignments, incorporating blogs into syllabi, how blogging can contribute to learning goals, privacy versus openness, especially with respect to FERPA, and interacting with students with social media more broadly (e.g. twitter, G+, Facebook, etc).

Undergraduate Education: Collaborating to create the next generation of open scientists

Thursday January 19, 2012 4:00pm – 5:00pm

Science faculty and librarians can collaborate on many aspects of undergraduate education – two ideas are the focus of this discussion. First: How can we best help undergrads understand and explore the scholarly information landscape? In addition to formal sources like journal articles, informal sources (e.g., blogs) are of increasing importance/relevance, which raises a question: How do we get students to think about what formal and informal really mean? How do we – faculty, librarians and others – work together to teach students to navigate the disciplinary landscape and become productive and critical consumers of – and contributors to – the disciplinary conversation? Second: How do we introduce students to the great big wide world of open science? How do the various players in higher education communicate to the next generation the incredible depth and complexity of what going on out there? How do we raise (inspire? support?) the next generation of Cameron Neylons, Steve Koches and Jean-Claude Bradleys (not to mention the next generation of Dorothea Salos and Christina Pikases)?

Next generation of Bloggers

Friday January 20, 2012 10:45am – 11:45am

From classroom blogging, to blogging at Nature, these students had quite a year! They’d like to start by talking about their experience with blogging so far, what they’ve learned, where they’ve had problems, and where they’ve been successful. Then, they want to get ideas from the audience on how to start a 1 day conference in NYC for middle/high school students interested in blogging.

Students as messengers of science

Saturday January 21, 2012 9:30am – 10:30am

High school and undergraduate students have a unique place in engaging their communities through science, while becoming the next generation of scientists, science writers, and journalists. As an increasingly diverse pool of students engage their families in their pursuits through mentoring, research and other immersion programs, as well as writing and journalism, they lay the groundwork for making science accessible for the non-scientists in their lives, representing a range of diverse ethnic and socio-economic communities. How as educators and mentors do we nurture them as scientists and communicators? What skills and practices are key for helping young people reflect on learning while also developing effective communication skills? This session will foster a discussion of the barriers, challenges and best practices for creating the infrastructure, mentoring relationships, and building the confidence of students as they experience science to help them develop their voices. The session will also explore how we recruit readers of such sites, and will explore examples of online media connected with science engagement programs geared toward high school and undergraduate students that are creating a local culture of science, among traditionally underrepresented communities, with a local impact.

Some facts

ScienceOnline2012 is the sixth annual international meeting on science and the Web. The participants are scientists, students, educators, physicians, journalists, librarians, bloggers, programmers and others interested in the way the World Wide Web is changing the way science is communicated, taught and done.

ScienceOnline2012 – #scio12 across social media – will take place January 19-21, 2012 on the campus of N.C. State University, with some 450 participants


Still communicating about how to communicate science communication

Even though I have been blogging for almost half a year, I can still be amazed by the experience of other people reading my posts, reblogging them, commenting and retweeting them and contacting me directly to express their thoughts. I must admit that it gives me a kick every time. It is not a snow avalanche, but it is enough to increase my motivation and very often it is interesting comments that gives rise to further reflections that again feeds new posts.

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about the challenge of communicating science communication. This particular post has resulted in a few comments on Twitter that I thought I’d just share with you:

And questions:

I have had a great discussion by Gmail-chat with a friend from university about the challenges of communicating research and turning research into practice. And about the lack of acknowledgement of communication activities, if it has to do with anything other than  the publishing of articles in peer-reviewed journals. Parallel to the Gmail-chat I had live in-person discussion with another friend also from university, who had a present challenge of how to communicate the results from an infectious disease epidemiological study to staff at health clinics. Very inspiring discussion – for both of us!

All in all really inspirering. I look forward to more of this and hope that everyone who has inputs, views, reflections etc, that I should integrate into a course on Public Health Science Communication will not hold back.

All the best wishes for the new year to everyone and see you in 2012!