During the past several years, Lab Manager magazine has written several articles addressing scientist and social media, the most recent in November 2014. In 2011, the author of “Scientist & the Social Media” started his article stating, “Laboratories are at the forefront of research and analysis. But when it comes to communication, they are followers rather than leaders and can be very slow to adopt innovations.”[i]
The article cited time and fear as the key reasons why industry professionals avoid social media, but also stated it was only a matter of time before social media became as important in the office and lab as the telephone and the Internet. In the same breath, the article quoted a study of lab managers that found “almost 100 percent admit to never having used flickr and over 80 percent had yet to open a Facebook account. Twitter is virgin territory to over 60 percent of respondents, while around half have never used Hyves.1 Only LinkedIn achieved a more creditable rating by being unfamiliar to only 4 percent.”[ii]
That number has undoubtedly increased over the years, but the reluctance to engage via social channels persists. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey of 3,748 American-based scientists connected with the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that 87 percent believe that scientist should take an active role in public policy debates about science and technology. Considering that scientists are not the most social creatures, how they engage is a mix of personal interaction with citizens (98%), media (51%), science and research blogs (24%) and social media (47%). The study found that 41% of scientists use at least two of these activities. [iii]
Whether they see a benefit in using social media is still in questions. Pew Research found that 77% of scientists agree, “It is not too or not at all important for career advancement to promote their findings on social media.”[iv]
In addition to time and fear, their is a belief that using social media comes with inherent risks. Professionals are reluctant to share an opinion that might not be popular among the Twitterverse, while labs may worry about the leaks of private or sensitive information. Science communications consultant and author Dennis Meredith is quoted in the 2014 Lab Manager article, “The Good, The Bad, and The Selfie” as saying scientists are “overwhelmed with tools and techniques and are probably confused about how to use social media to their advantage. They suffer from sins of commission, like jumping into Twitter or starting blogging without a strategic plan, or sins of omission, opting out of media pathways that may be beneficial.”[v]
Even as social media has grown among the masses, there is still evident reluctance among the science community to fully embrace social media for a variety of reason. Time, fear, risk are chief among them, but with a little more knowledge and understanding, some experts in the field believe it can be a gamechanger, from initiating discussions with peers and engaging the general public, to research and recruiting. Some may see social media as an interesting experiment in communication and as is the case in with most scientific discussions, the debates are ongoing.
Teledyne Tekmar has been a forefront in the scientific community with many others by creating social media accounts and posting to their audience on these channels. Be sure to follow Tekmar to stay up-to-date on the latest events, promotions and application notes.
[v] Kidder, F. Key, “The Good, The Bad, and The Selfie,” Lab Manager, November 2014, pg