Five Things Scientists Should be Doing on Social Media

Sean Ekins is CSO of Collaborative Drug Discovery, CEO of Phoenix Nest, CEO of Collaborations Pharmaceuticals, Inc, and CSO of the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation. In addition, he serves on the Editorial Board of Pharmaceutical Research, and is passionate about using social media to help publicize science. He shared five tips with us for what you can do as a researcher and scientist to help elevate your scientific career.

5662353064_bfdf436a96_b[1]The odds are high that you may have just shared something with family or friends on Facebook, or you tweeted your response to an event while reading this and drinking your coffee. But do you know that the social media tools you use for fun, post photos/videos to, and consume media on can also help you reach the public, highlight your science, and increase your network as a scientist? In the process of my experiments and with the urging of a close friend (Antony Williams) leading the way, I have identified five things you can add to your typical social media activity. These simple actions can help your career, or might just lead to a new collaboration or discovery.

  1. Twitter: Twitter is simple to use and it’s easy to share the link to something you have done. Just do it in moderation. For me it’s the Swiss Army knife of social media once you have built a network and connected to others. Maybe a paper of yours or a friend was published, and you think it’s worth sharing with others. Why not post a link to the preprint or author copy? Perhaps you have a new lab member– introduce them to your network in a tweet with their twitter handle. Perhaps you put out a blog on your science– share the link on Twitter. When you go to a conference let people know in advance that you will be there (you might be able to tweetup with new connections, and who knows what could come from that?) You could tweet about what the presenter is saying. The next thing you know you could be co-writing a paper on how to use Twitter at science conferences. If you have a crazy result from an experiment, why not share it? Someone may recognize it as something that could change the world. I have found collaborators on Twitter, and have gone on to successfully co-author with them on papers without ever meeting or speaking to them in person.
  2. LinkedIn: Linkedin is not just for business managers to share their greatest coaching ideas or meaningful quotes (although there is a lot of that). Why not post an update of what you are doing? Like with Twitter, try to post the link to a paper, presentation or blog. You can also provide information on your papers in your profile so that anyone can find you (perhaps a recruiter) and get a better idea of your expertise and productivity.
  3. SlideShare: If you just got back from that Neuroscience or Cancer conference you probably have a presentation or poster that you think might be worth sharing (that is non-confidential). Why not post it on Slideshare? You can then tweet out a link and also connect the presentation to Linkedin so that it appears on your profile.
  4. Figshare is a great place to post preprints (confirm that the journal you submitted to allows this), slides, data, supplemental files, additional information, posters, and more. You can specify who to share with and what needs to be kept private or public. You may not think of SlideShare and FigShare as social media, but they are repositories of your content, the fruits of your labor. People can congregate around what you put there – you can use these locations as a virtual soapbox. Stand on it and say, “hey this is me, my work. Come take a look!”
  5. Kudos: There are plenty of places to post your papers and preprints such as ResearchGate, but what about enriching your research output so that you can provide more insight on what you have done over the course of your career in terms of publications? This service helps you track the citations and altmetrics on articles, and also provides a dashboard of all of your papers. On the downside, if you have a vast number of papers it may take you a very long time to enrich every article with links to other content. It may take a while before you see a payoff on this investment, but it will be worth it. You can also point people to your Kudos page for an article and drive traffic to the paper, in turn tracking this activity. It is quite fascinating to see which papers get the most visibility.

Remember, be nice on social media. Like everything in life, use it in moderation and do not abuse it. Now that I have written this I will post it to Twitter and LinkedIn, and the circle of social media for science continues. While social media cannot replace good old face-to-face interaction, it provides a valuable platform to reach new audiences. I cannot imagine returning to a social media free life anytime soon. I am having too much fun engaging with the world, making discoveries and connections. I have no idea where it will lead.

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. I imagine that the tools used in five years may change. If you want to learn more about how my personal use of social media for science communication has evolved go to my slides on Slideshare. You can also ask me questions about social media and more when I participate in a Reddit AMA in the r/science community on July 11th.

More about Sean Ekins: Dr. Ekins graduated from the University of Aberdeen; receiving his M.Sc., Ph.D. and D.Sc in Clinical Pharmacology. Sean was a postdoctoral fellow at Lilly Research Laboratories. He has worked as a senior scientist at Pfizer and Lilly Research Laboratories, respectively and as Associate Director of Computational Drug Discovery at Concurrent Pharmaceuticals, Inc (now Vitae Pharmaceuticals and Vice President of Computational Biology at GeneGo (now Thomson Reuters). He advises several rare disease foundations on their science. In particular he is CSO at the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation. Sean is also Senior Consultant for Collaborations in Chemistry and CSO, Science at Collaborative Drug Discovery Inc. In addition he is Adjunct faculty positions at the University of Maryland, Rutgers and UNC Chapel Hill. Sean has authored or co-authored ~250 peer reviewed scientific papers and book chapters as well as edited/ co-edited four books. He has received numerous SBIR or STTR grants as PI and consults widely with academia and industry. Follow him on Twitter at Collabchem.

3 thoughts on “Five Things Scientists Should be Doing on Social Media

  1. Wish the author of this post would have mentioned ORCID http://orcid.org/

    And also that ResearchGate is seriously sub-optimal https://openaccess.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2015/11/06/ditch-academia-edu/.

    Check with your data curation librarian or subject librarian about depositing work in the institution’s digital archive instead of or in addition to FigShare/Slideshare. Then link from digital archive to ORCID page and voila, increased impact and preservation in addition to discoverability.

    • Thank you for these additional suggestions! They are also very useful options for scientists.
      – The Springer Source Team

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