Social media and science is not for everyone. I am a prolific user of Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Vine videos (also occasionally Facebook) and I post tons of content. When my experiments go wrong the very first thing I normally do is photograph it and post it to Twitter. I’m not kidding – my boss often hears about my results via social media before I show him the data. One of my PhD students messages me on twitter rather than e-mail because he knows he’s more likely to get an instant response… It’s fine, I can quit anytime I want!
Not everyone has the energy, time or even patience to do all that. And despite what some people say, I don’t think that all scientists need to talk to each other constantly on social media. For a start, not all work is shareable – I doubt I’d do the same thing if I was working for the Ministry of Defence or on something top secret like Barbie’s ultra shine nail formula. It works for some people but not everyone. However, what does work for everyone is reading about other people’s ridiculous experiments.
Thanks to reading people’s Twitter feeds, I’ve heard about possible funding days before it has been publicised. I’ve borrowed equipment; I’ve lent equipment; I’ve had people help redesign my experiments. Basically, thanks to reading about other people’s research, my research is a whole lot better. Although to be honest, I also quite like reading about other people’s stuff exploding for a change. Come to think of it, that’s probably 90% of why I use social media – forget all that other stuff!
But it’s not really obvious where to start. There are some awesome researchers out on the world wide web tweeting some great science, but finding them is all but impossible. You rely on the slow drip of recommendations from various sources but random lists of the “Top 10 Twitter scientists” tend to actually be “Top 10 Twitter scientists that are also my friends”. This is where something called Rotational Curation (RoCur) accounts come in handy.
Rotation Curation as a concept is blissfully simple – have one account and let many different people run it on a rotation system. One very famous example of this is the Twitter account for Sweden which is run by a different citizen every week. Some weeks it’s a very boring insight into Swedish bureaucracy and once it was a young blond lady who wanted to bring back the name ‘Hitler’.
Catering to science, there are several accounts that give anyone reading them a brief insight into a particular world of science. The biggest is @RealScientists, which broadly caters to everything in science. This week for example is a marine biologist tweeting about whale sex, but previous curators include science teachers and particle physicists. Other accounts, such as @AstroTweeps and @BioTweeps are more focused on a single area and give a teaser of that particular branch of science rather than going for the more scatter-gun approach.
All these accounts give you one week’s experience of a curators narrow world of science that would otherwise be entirely opaque. Don’t like it (or them) then great, they’ll be kicked off after a week and another scientist will tell you all about their particular brand of madness. Don’t like ANY of it, then you do better – all the accounts accept basically any applications they get. Seriously I bet they’d let any lunatic on.