This fourth year of the PhD is no joke y'all. But even though grad school is packed with classes, teaching, grading, experiments in lab or the field, writing, or making posters and talks for conferences, there's still time for social media! Or I guess what I'm saying is that it's worth it to make time. Here's why...
Numero Uno: It ups your citation count.
For reals. Study after study has shown that just by typing up a quick blog post, sharing a 140-character tweet or short Facebook post every couple weeks after publication increases views, downloads, and citations of your published work. Publishing is an important part of building your scientific reputation, but it's becoming more and more important to not only do good science and write it up, but to make sure you write it up well, get people to read it, and then have them cite it. Social media is the low hanging fruit of a bunch of ways you can get the word out about your research, increase your citations, and expand the impact of your research.
2: It's a great way to kick around new ideas.
Especially if you're new to grad school, or if you're not publishing yet, following conversations online can give you insight on the latest techniques being developed or areas of contention that might need further research. Join discussions on a topic related to your research on ResearchGate or LinkedIn groups for example. These are great ways to start building a "virtual network" and can help you get your name out there early in your career as someone who's knowledgeable in a particular field.
Besides the fact that there are a ton of organizational and productivity tools available to help streamline all of your data, music, news feeds, and social media accounts, communicating with other grad students or colleagues in your field online can help you more easily identify when you may be starting to head down the wrong path. In my first year, I was stuck on this protocol development and just could not reproduce what I was reading in the literature. After just a couple targeted tweets to scientists in the field, I figured out why it wasn't working and probably saved a couple weeks worth of headaches. #gradschoolwin
4: It's kind of expected now.
What's the first thing people are going to do after they hear your talk at a conference and want to learn more? Google you. And if they can't find anything...
If you don't have an online presence, it's time to start building one! LinkedIn, ResearchGate, and Google Scholar are all great places to start. And after those, a personal website and Twitter are a great way to keep 'followers' up to speed on what you're up to in lab.
5: We need scientists communicating about their science, and about how evidence-based conclusions are made, now more than ever. Social media is a great way to start finding your voice.
It's no secret the new administration isn't exactly making science, or even evidence-based decision-making a central pillar of their agenda. It shouldn't be a partisan issue. We should know this isn't going to help anything. Having more scientists speak up about what we're finding, and the process of how we find it, helps establish trust and encourage more support for science. And you don't have to become a full-fledged journalist to start communicating about your science.
Start with taking a couple classes or participate in local opportunities like taste of science, which brings scientists to a local brewery or restaurant to talk about their science in an informal atmosphere, or Pecha Kucha where you get 20 slides, no words, only images, and 20 seconds on each image to communicate your work.
But the simplest way to get started is to get on social media, especially Twitter. There's a growing community of scientists interested in more effectively communicating their research and they're practicing with 140-character snippets. And maybe a link to their blog here and there. ;)
If you haven't started yet, it's never too late to make an account and start poking around. Here's a great summary of some different platforms you could choose from!
Welcome to Think Like a Postdoc. If you're a fan of science as much as I am, and/or are curious about getting a degree in a STEM field, or pursuing an interdisciplinary graduate degree (all from the perspective of a graduate student), then you're in the right place. Think Like a Postdoc also includes posts about my current lab and field research, including analytical chemistry, Arctic biogeochemistry, and energy & environmental policy. Comments and questions are always welcomed. And please tell me what you want to hear about next!
Questions to Ask Before Choosing Grad Program
First Semester of Grad School
Field Work in Alaska
Science Conference Dos and Don'ts
Women in STEM Series
Things I've Learned in Grad School Series
Blogs I Follow
Mass Spectrometry Blog
The Grad Student Way
Anthony's Science Blog
The Thesis Whisperer
Fossils and Shit
Science Communication Breakdown
Science Communication Media
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