An academic viewpoint on social media portals


We are, as a society, becoming inundated with comments that fall in to categories such as “did you see X on Facebook” or “Have you had a sneaky peek at that viral video?” and news articles such as this one. Here what I would like to do is pass on some of my own impressions and experiences of the benefits of using social media, focusing on Twitter and LinkedIN.


Yes, simply said, the impact science can make through such outlets presents a perfect opportunity with the drive to bring our research to the general public. Social media allows us all to interact with other scientists but, once you get going, the general public too, as we discussed here.


Technically, you do not need an account to read what’s going on; you also do not need a smartphone, any steam kettle of a PC or MAC will do.

I am in no way advocating that you join up. Have a quiet trawl through what science is on there, and maybe like me, you will make the leap! Discussing science in this format makes you think about what you say.

Being able to have a conduit that will generally be viewed by people interested in science but also has the opportunity to be picked up by a wider audience is what we are being asked to do in science. The amount of work needed to be a scientist on Twitter but not become an addict is, in my opinion, well worth it.

A good starting point is to read some of the blogs and transcripts from a fantastic episode that ran under #overlyhonestmethods during the first half of Jan 2013: has a number of active twitter accounts. Nature Reviews Microbiology (@NatRevMicro) regularly generates lists of papers of interest.

Microbiology Twitter Journal Club (#microtwjc). This is an organised twitter-based chat on microbiology every two weeks where a chosen paper is discussed. Recently, Microtwjc succeeded in gaining a response to one discussion by the authors of the paper – This is a form of public engagement exploiting social media portals and the group in question got free advertisement for their work!


I will openly admit I can not remember actually joining up to this portal. I, like many of us, continually get emails asking me to accept someone’s invite to their community. Recently, my ex-PhD student started looking for a more secure opportunity of employment. He and a number of others in the same position were given advice to maintain their LinkedIN profile. Exploit it as a professional digital CV, use its features to the maximum and, importantly, generate your own “linked in community” of people you know in science that can support your claims. This includes knowing how to pour gels, purify proteins and use seriously kick-ass microscopes or any other piece of kit we have access to! He got his current position due to his profile fitting a match during an employment consultation search.

This experience has given me a chance to see what its uses are. This means that my LinkedIN profile has gone from being an annoyance to something that is there to support my students and post-docs (if I ever have any again!) when they are actively looking for employment. Its not there for my own gain, its there so that they can state who trained/taught them and if someone wishes to, they can view my profile and look at my own career history.

My social media timeline:

I have been on Facebook since 2009. I joined Twitter in March 2012 and this will be my second date with blogging.

I joined Facebook for a very specific reason. I had the amazing opportunity through a joint Royal Society and Daiwa foundation International Project Grant to visit my Japanese collaborators for 3 months. It was agreed that we would keep our family up to date with our antics by exploiting Facebook’s method of publishing photos.

I joined Twitter through a friend posting tweets to Facebook: these included what was floating their boat on new papers, commenting on science articles in the press and generally having science-based discussions with other scientists. I made a decision from day one Twitter would be for science (hahaha!). What do I have now? Well, I do focus on Science and I follow a good group of science communicators across the UK and US. I also seem to be following many of the real ale bars of Newcastle upon Tyne!

Image Sources: Here and Here