Launching a social media strategy to advocate for science: is GE3LS* missing the boat?
January 20, 2011
Lackes, et al., (2009), finds that few scientists use social media tools, significantly lagging the adoption rates for both business and personal use. Scientific research is essentially a communication-driven process where many of its contributors, stakeholders and consumers are part of what we might refer to as “Generation F” (the ‘Facebook’ generation). The widespread adoption of social media tools to communicate and share information has significantly changed the science-based research landscape. It’s not enough to merely sit in our labs, closed off from the world. Being memorable, as an organization or entity, is crucial in this Web 2.0 world where we are bombarded daily by millions of sound bytes. Further complicating the matter for science and science advocates is the fact that NGOs, INGOs and other interest groups have been very proficient in taking up Internet-based communication tools to reach entirely new audiences. As a result they are able to quickly build coalitions and mobilize the public around specific issues of interest at relatively low marginal costs (Ryan 2010).
For example, we conducted a poll at the annual VALGEN meetings in Banff in January 2010. Of the 28 scientists in the room, only 58.3% stated that they used social media tools and only 36.9% of THOSE used social media for professional purposes (professional networking, recruitment, sharing/accessing knowledge).
This lag in the adoption of social media strategies represents significant costs to both scientific and social science research agendas. For society, scientific progress far outpaces our capacity as stakeholders to adopt or understand scientific or technological developments. Thus, communication – through the integration of optimal social media strategies – becomes the currency for bridging connections between the spheres of science, technology and society.
Is GE3LS missing an opportunity here? Do we need to formally incorporate social media strategies into our research agendas to support and advocate for science?
Lackes, R., M. Siepermann and E. Frank. (2009). “Social networks as an approach to the enhancement of collaboration among scientists.” International Journal of Web-based Communities. Volume 5, Number 4. Pps 577-592.
Ryan, C. D. (2010). “Framing, Exploring and Understanding Online Anti-Technology Advocacy Networks.” Working paper. Available online at: http://doccami.posterous.com/online-anti-technology-advocacy-networks-netw. Accessed on: January 17, 2011.
*GE3LS is the acronym that stands for genomics and its related ethical, economic, environmental, legal and social aspects. GE3LS research complements genomics research by addressing questions that lie at the interface between science and society.