Social Networking

Social Media for Scientists: A lecture

Travis and I recently gave a keynote presentation at our alma mater, Queen’s university, on the utility of social media use among academics, researchers, and graduate students.

The 1 hr presentation, entitled “How to win friends and influence people with social media” covers the following topics:

1. Why researchers and graduate students use social media

2. The (many) pros and (few) cons of being an academic online

3. How to build a basic strategy for taking your research online

Enjoy the video and please share with any colleagues who might be interested. Feel free to skip to 4:20 for the start of the talk. Looking forward to your comments!


What science blog networks do you visit most frequently?

It’s no secret that the science blogosphere has undergone massive changes in the past 18 months.  There have been new networks (Scientopia, PLoS BLoGs), dramatically expanded/revamped networks (Scientific American, The Guardian, Wired), and networks that are under new management (Scienceblogs). There are even networks that have stuck around through it all, largely unchanged (Nature Network).

I’ve come to come to think of these networks as each representing a distinct niche in the science blogosphere.  These niches may not perfectly represent each network, but they’re what I associate with the network, and what I look for when I’m visiting.

Scienceblogs is where I go to find animated discussions about atheism, skepticism, and climate science. Deep Sea News is where I go for things related to oceans and aquatic animals.  Scientopia’s bloggers are mostly active researchers, and on any given day their network has excellent posts on what it’s like to be a scientist – from trainee right through to PI.  Conversely, PLoS BloGGers are mostly science journalists, who often discuss issues related to their work, as well as large dollops of actual journalistic pieces (there are also a few active researchers there, myself included).  Like PLoS Blogs, Wired and Discover seem to be written mainly by professional journalists, doing science journalism.  And then there’s the new Scientific American blog network, which is a pleasant mix of several things – journalists, scientists, etc.

I like this new science blogosphere, as it offers a number of different experiences to suit different tastes and even different moods (I find that I enjoy Scientopia while working in the lab, but prefer to read the more journalistic pieces on PLoS BLoGs and Scientific  American in my free time).

With all of these choices, I’m curious to know what networks people read most frequently.  The survey below allows you to rank the 3 networks that you visit most frequently (excluding any networks where you contribute regularly).  I’m assuming that Scienceblogs still has the most absolute visitors, but I’m interested to hear how the various networks rank, and why people put them in that order.  I’ve tried to get in the ones that I read and hear about most frequently, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. That being said, some of these networks are far more “niche” than others, so it may not be entirely fair to compare them all head-to-head.

Feel free to suggest ones that I might have missed in the comments.  Now go ahead and vote! Check back next week for the final tally.


Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Knowledge Dissemination: blogging vs peer review

Travis’ Note: Today’s post is from Dr David J Phipps of ResearchImpact, a Canadian knowledge-exchange network.  The original post can be found on Mobilize This!, the ResearchImpact blog.  Thanks to David for allowing us to cross-post his article here.

In an age of self publishing – including blogs, videos, and other Web-based media – why do we still seek to publish in traditional academic peer-reviewed journals? Vanity.

ResearchImpact-York published two academic papers in 2009. In 2010 we had one in press, two submitted, and one just rejected for a second time, from the same journal. Since our first post on May 30, 2008, ResearchImpact has published 206 blogs on Mobilize This!, an average of 6 or 7 each month.

Here’s a comparison of blogging and peer-reviewed publishing: More >

Top 5 Twitter Etiquette Tips

While I claim to be no expert on Twitter etiquette, I would hope that over the past 2 years of tweeting I have picked up at least a few morsels of useful info.

Whenever I’ve tried to explain how Twitter works, I use the analogy of attending a large party with some potentially important guests in attendance.

Tip #1: How to make a Twitter entrance

As is the case with large parties, you know very few people there. Thus, when you first get there, you want to introduce yourself to as many people as possible.

But you wouldn’t simply enter through the front door holding a megaphone and announce to everyone present: “HELLO I AM JOHN AND I WOULD LIKE TO TALK TO ALL OF YOU!”

That is, you don’t want to just blindly follow hundreds or even thousands of people without really getting to know any of them, and giving them an opportunity to learn something about you.

Most appropriate method would be to introduce yourself to a few people at a time, and to move around the room, slowly building contacts. More >

How do Physicians Behave on Twitter?

Twitter Profile

As the popularity of social media has increased during the past few years, it is not surprising that the number of physicians using these tools has steadily increased.  In general, I would argue that this is a very good thing.  Social media can be an excellent tool for disseminating health information, and I know many physicians who use it extremely effectively to that end.  The American Medical Association came out with a set of guidelines for physicians using social media in November of last year, and it seems to share my positive view of the benefits that physicians can experience online.  From the guidelines:

The Internet has created the ability for medical students and physicians to communicate and share information quickly and to reach millions of people easily. Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians’ personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication.

But the guidelines go on to point out that things can also get a little hairy online if you let your guard down.

Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient-physician relationship. Physicians should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:

(a) Physicians should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.

(b) When using the Internet for social networking, physicians should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the Internet, content is likely there permanently. Thus, physicians should routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.

(c) If they interact with patients on the Internet, physicians must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship in accordance with professional ethical guidelines just, as they would in any other context.


So how are physicians doing with their conduct using social media?  More >

Who uses Twitter? Less than 3% of internet users do so regularly.

Everyone is certainly talking about it. Most companies, news agencies, and entrepreneurs have Twitter accounts. Although I’ve been on Twitter since early 2009, most of my real-life friends and colleagues only vaguely understand what Twitter is and how it can be used.

Thus, I shouldn’t be surprised that only 8% of internet users in the the US report using Twitter, according to a recent Pew survey.

However, of those 8% of internet users who happen to use Twitter, only a third (36%) use the service regularly by checking for material posted by others on a daily basis or multiple times per day.  I guess (if I lived in the US) I would be included in this rather small fraction of regular Twitter users.

On the other hand, 42% of Twitter users check the site less than every few weeks, or never.

Thus, in effect, less than 3% of US internet users are regular Twitter users (2.9%).

Despite the discouraging statistics, I’ve certainly have had no trouble finding interesting people to connect with on Twitter. More >

How building your online social network may affect your offline social life

One of the main reasons drawing people of all ages online is the prospect of connecting and communicating with others. This need for connecting online is the impetus behind the immense popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, and countless others.

In the realm of online vs offline social networking, an interesting question often arises: As one’s online social networks grow, does that person also become more popular offline?

There are generally two schools of thought on this issue, broadly promoted by the cyberpessimists and the cyberoptimists.

You can almost guess what I’m about to write next, right?

Cyberpessimists believe that being social online results in being anti-social offline. The premise makes sense; we only have so much time to dedicate to socializing online or off. Thus, as the time socializing online increases, our face-to-face exposure with contacts may diminish.

The cyberoptimists assert the opposite: online social networking actually supplements rather than displaces offline social networking.

So who’s got the right idea?

Maybe neither according to a recent study by Pollet and colleagues in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. More >