Communicating science on social media

Science communication is critical in many disciplines, where research findings often shape decision and policymaking. The understanding of Cognitive Neuroscience is still not widespread among the general population. Misconceptions about the brain are widely prevalent even in recent times. Many Scientific institutions across the world have noticed this need, and in some countries, the funding agencies often mandate scientists to communicate science to the public and assess impact. The condition has been addressed, but how does one successfully achieve this?

Scientists and researchers worldwide are busy in laboratories, working hard, meeting deadlines to send abstracts and writing grants; all this while trying to maintain a work-life balance. Although unhealthy, a publish or perish attitude is present among the scientific community with a rush to publish. What is an ideal condition for a researcher to communicate their findings? The perfect situation would be to write a blog or hold a press conference or post on social media or make an infographic after the work has been accepted for publication. The easiest way to share research findings is through social media.

Most researchers and graduate students are discouraged from using social media to keep them clutter-free and focus on research work. However, the trend is changing, if not already nowadays; the scientific community is very active on social media, especially Twitter. The latest findings and ideas are shared widely in a way that does not require much time or effort from the researcher. This way of communicating research findings can reach the lay public effectively.

Conventionally, the scholarship of publications in impact factor journals is quantified based on the number of citations. It is interesting to note that it takes almost two to three years for a paper to be cited. Recently, an alternative metric to quantify the merit of the article is being widely used, called ‘Altmetrics’. Altmetrics quantify the number of mentions, shares and tweets about the article on social media. Although there is a peak in this metric immediately after publication and falls after, this is a viable tool to measure reach. However, on the downside, citations in journals are peer-reviewed and hence are used to support information, while ‘Altmetrics’ only quantifies mentions which can be of any sort.

Communicating science on social media has been gaining momentum over recent years. It is crucial to communicate research findings to the tax-payers and the end recipients of the research products — the society. Effective scientific communication on social media is also being rewarded in multiple ways, like using ‘Altmetrics’. The need of the hour is to enable scientists to communicate with the lay-public effectively. This mode of communication should start from Graduate school for it to be deep-rooted and long-lasting. A well-informed society would act as a platform for future generations to thrive.

Studying the most beautiful system, the brain.