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

socialMEDiacourse2

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.


A perfect place to pick-up arguments for why scientists should be on social media

An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists‘. I have wanted to mention this article published in PLOS Biology ever since it came out in April 2013, but somehow never got around to it. But as I reread it earlier this week, I was reminded how this article must be mentioned on a blog like mine.

An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists is written by Holly M. Bik and Miriam C. Goldstein from University of California Davis and University of California San Diego and is an excellent place to start for researchers considering trying out social media or for enthusiasts of social media for science communication who are in search of good arguments they can use to persuade others of why they must set up a Twitter account, start blogging or establish some other form of online presence.

Research Benefits and flowcharts

Supported by lots of examples (with links provided to many of them!) the authors list a number of ways in which social media can benefit both the scientist and the scientific work. In short form these are:

  • How online tools can help improve research efficiency;
  • How being visible on social media helps track and improve scientific metrics;
  • How social media enhances professional networking; and
  • How online interactions have the potential to enhance ‘‘broader impacts’’ by improving communication between scientists and the general public.

flowchart

They go on to address different kinds of social media and how they can be used, and provide advice to new users on how to get started. A useful (and fun) feature of the article is a flowchart that can help newcomers find out which media might be most relevant for them to try out and solution to common online communication fears.

Acknowledging the stigma

Throughout the article the authors mention the stigma which is often attached to online activities. They acknowledge how many researchers are skeptical towards the media and regards it as a waste of time and a distraction from true scientific work. In a response to this the authors have set out to address some of the many misconceptions and misinterpretations of what social media can contribute with. And in my opinion it works. One could argue that they don’t spend much energy on the risks or disadvantages of social media for science communication (of which there are of course several), but they are plenty to be found elsewhere.

Need for formal training

Social media among scientists is quickly growing and will eventually become more and more natural for scientists to use (if not sooner than as the younger generation whom have grown up with social media enter the research arena). But until then there is a need to train on researchers and scholars on the potential of social media in academic work. Both to address the many misconception and skepticism but also to avoid researchers use it inefficiently or inappropriately. I could therefore not agree more with the authors:

“Social media and internet-based resources are increasingly ubiquitous. Thus, there is a pressing need for scientific institutions to offer formalized training opportunities for graduate students and tenured faculty alike to learn how to effectively use this new technology”.


What does Britain’s Science Media Centre (SMC) think of social media for science communication?

smcMost people working with science communication will probably have heard about Britain’s Science Media Centre (SMC) and perhaps also about its front woman Fiona Fox. In case you’ve never heard of it or can’t really remember what it is about the scientific journal ‘Nature’ recently published a news feature on SMC and Fiona Fox which gives a good overview of the centre, its concept and the critic it faces.

Science Media Centre (SMC) is an independent press office that works to get scientific voices into media coverage and policy debates. By doing so the aim is to improve the accuracy with which science is presented to the public. The Centre works with:

  • journalists by providing them with information about science and its related disciplines; and putting them in contact with relevant scientists
  • scientists, engineers and other experts by supporting them in engaging with the media and by creating more opportunities for them to get their voices.
  • Press officers by supporting them when they are working on complex science, health and environment stories.

In addition, the SMC provides expert advice and evidence on issues relating to science in the media.

I won’t repeat the background or work of SMC further on this blog but instead refer to the Nature article or their Science Media Centre website. 

Social media and SMC?

Reading the Nature article with the interview with Fiona Fox and looking at SMC’s website it strikes me how reflections on the use of social media for science communication seems completely absent. It is not mentioned once in the article and on the website they link to their own Twitter account and Fiona Fox’s blog, but other than that there is no reference to social media as a tool or as medium for science communication.

Even in their Top tips for media work to help scientists to work with the media social media is not mentioned with a word, despite the fact that social media provides an excellent opportunity for scientists to communicate their research. Neither is it mentioned in their 10 best practice guidelines for reporting science & health stories. Of course these two guidelines are meant to be a tool on how to prepare for meeting the scientist/journalist and interpret correctly what information they are looking for or sit with, but none the less social media is only growing in influence also among scientists, so advice on checking out if the researcher is blogging about his or her field or using other social media could be worth including. As could advice to scientists on using social media to communicate themselves and use this communication channel as a resource to guide journalists too.

In the Nature article, Fiona Fox says that the part of her job in which she takes the most pride, is convincing once-timid scientists to join the SMC database and speak out. “A real triumph for us is getting a scientist who has worked for 30 years on a really controversial issue and has never spoken to the media,” she says. I wonder if she also encourages them to take communication into their own hands and start communicating through social media as well or if she mainly thinks of them talking to journalists who then do the communication or sign up on the SMC scientist roster….. All in all, I guess I’m quite unclear about what SMC and Fiona Fox thinks of social media for science communication.


Social media challenges ‘old’ media in Boston bombings coverage

That social media plays a key role in emergency situations is evident. Lots of events have proven it’s efficiency and it’s multi-purpose qualities. However, this has definitely not been clear to everyone. Then a tragedy occurs in Boston and it becomes clearer and clearer that social media cannot be brushed aside.

Pop HealthThere are already lots of great blog posts, Twitter discussions etc. about the role social media played (and is still playing) in the events related to the Boston bombings, so I won’t try myself to replicate those. A post that gives a good overview and is written by a public health professional is Leah Roman’s blog post on the blog Pop Health. She goes through some of the key themes of social media in the emergency response, ranging from Immediate Public Safety Concerns and Instructions over Investigation, Reconnecting people, to the functioning of social media as a Resource for Journalists, and it’s role in Mental Health & Support Resources.

idisasterAnother good post about the social media in the boston bombing is on the blog iDisaster 2.0 that shares links to other great articles about the role social media played during the horrific aftermath and presents three observation on use of social networks, particularly Twitter, by the Boston Police Department. Also worth a read.

New media challenges old media

In the last couple of days, old media and new media are both reporting of how the later beat the first during the Boston events. Especially CNNs failure to keep up with social networks in being first with the news is being covered and discussed (among other places in this article in the NY Times and in Danish in this article in Politiken). The dynamic between the traditional media and new social media is interesting, and the relationship between the two will certainly continue to evolve. Without knowing the details of the discussion back in time when radio and later on TV came into being I’m sure that there were similar discussions on the then new media challenging the old ones. I look forward to seeing how it develops, and how emergency management manages to make use of what is still categorized as ‘new media’ and its relation with traditional media.


The Australian Emergency Management Knowledge Hub

In my research on the use of social media in emergency management and communication and my hunt for good case studies, I have come across a knowledge hub, that I thought I’d share with you. I was of course introduced to it by wonderful people on Twitter (thank you Eva Alisic).

KnowledgehubThe website is called The Australian Emergency Management Knowledge Hub and is still a BETA version of the Knowledge Hub, but a good BETA version. It provides easy access to evidence-based research and other research as wells as news relevant to emergency management, including statistics and information, photos, video and media about past disaster events. You can read more about the rational and the organisations behind the website on their ‘about’ page.

mapThe website has lots of well thought out search tools. You can search for information about specific emergencies through a combined map and timeline. It will provide you with basic data about the event and links to resources related to the event in the research database.

You can also go directly to the research database and search here on the topic you seek information. You can even filter or sort it by the kind of document (case study, website, report, journal article, blog, wiki etc.), date and disaster category.

Although I haven’t yet tried it out, there is also a community forum space where people working with emergency management can register to discuss ideas and issues affecting the emergency sector.

As the name of the knowledge hub implies, the majority of the resources relates to Australia and its closest surrounding countries, but it is no way exclusive. I have mostly been looking at things related to social media and it seems to me that Australia is first-mover country when it comes to integrating social media into emergency management.

The Knowledge Hub also provides access to resources in the Australian Emergency Management Library.

knowledgehub twitter

Users of the hub can contribute to the hub’s continuous development, by recommending additional resources, share upcoming events, photos, videos and join in on the discussions.

The Australian Emergency Management Knowledge Hub is of course also on Twitter (@AEMKH), which they use very actively.