Great Moments in Scholarly Communication

Today I want to highlight a really stunning example of Scholarly Communication on Twitter. Chelsea Vowel, Twitter handle @apihtawikosisan has set the bar high, taking a talk that she has put together, and reproducing it as a Twitter thread, for the reason, she says of initiating a broader conversation. I’ve embedded the first tweet here, please read the whole thread – it’s worth it.

There are a few reasons why I can’t stop thinking about this thread as a fantastic example of research or science communication – both in general and on social media. I’ll list them here:

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Great Moments in Scholarly Communication

Not My Job: Why Scientists Should Also Be Communicators

This post is an excerpt taken from my upcoming online training resource: Science Communication Best Practices. It is based on work I completed in a MITACS supported Canadian Science Policy Fellowship with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

 

Not My Job: Why Scientists Should Also be Communicators

As a scientist, you may feel as though you have your hands full conducting your science, and that it is other peoples’ jobs to communicate about it. After all, your department, university or lab already has communication personnel, so why can’t they do it?

We’ve heard this comment before, and even though professional communicators possess a lot of knowledge about communication, there are very good reasons why every scientist should learn to communicate about their work. For example, studies have shown that people are less likely to trust information they receive about climate science if that information is shared by politicians or professional communicators, however, people will be more likely to trust the same information if it is shared by scientists themselves.

This blog post by Scientific American gives some compelling reasons why scientists should talk directly with the public, rather than going through intermediaries. It highlights the ways that the passion that scientists have for their work can inspire others, and gives resources for those people interested in becoming better science communicators. Furthermore, most scientists, including government scientists, are in roles that are mandated to serve the public. Public service means communicating your findings to others in ways that are accessible to everyone.

Flame Challenge 3
“Flame Challenge 3” by KGA Team 6th Grade is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Nobody understands your topic better than you do. You have spent years devoted to every nuance of your area of study. This means that a professional communicator can not do your topic justice the way you can. If they get questions for additional details, they may not be able to provide the best answer. On the other hand, you are able to provide responses to many possible questions because you know your topic so well. By taking the time to communicate your science directly, you are ensuring that people get access to the best information possible, because it comes from you.

Not My Job: Why Scientists Should Also Be Communicators

New Online Resource: About Online Harassment

For the past 18 months, I have been part of a research team that looks at the effects of online harassment for researchers and scholars who need to be on social media for the purposes of their work.

Words Stigmitize: an image of angry heads with tongues pointing at a small sad person in the cornder
“Words Stigmitize” by Antonis Margaronis is licensed under CC by-nc-nd 4.0

This  project relates to my general research program of understanding how information that is in the public interest can be spread online, and what the barriers are to the spread of information in this context.

Working on the question of online harassment has given me the opportunity to work with a fantastic team of super smart and caring people. We’ve interviewed scholars and researchers, launched a large scale survey, and produced papers, conference presentations, op-eds and YouTube explainer videos. Now we’re very excited to launch a website intended to showcase our research on this project to date, and also serve as a resource for scholars and researchers who use online tools to promote themselves or their work.

 

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New Online Resource: About Online Harassment

Diversity in Canadian Science: Not yet there

I have spent the bulk of my week at a fantastic academic and policy related conference that brings together scientists and leaders from a wide variety of fields. What’s really been great about this experience is it’s commitment to engaging with a variety of disciplines. We’re not just seeing health scientists, researchers from STEM fields, or social scientists and humanities scholars, but truly a variety of perspectives from across the research spectrum. Another strength of this conference, which I realize now has not been part of my general conference experience is I’ve noticed a real effort to balance gender representation on the panels. Most of the panels I have attended have either had equal numbers of men and women present, or had greater numbers of women and men, reflecting their attendee balance, which identifies as about 60% women.

A sheet of paper with different colored lines and the text "Diversity makes everything more interesting"
“Bill Bernbach diversity scholarship posters” by Juan Carlos Pagan, Brian Gartside is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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Diversity in Canadian Science: Not yet there

What can sustainability communicators learn from social media marketers?

Recently, Ann Dale, Jamie Clifton-Ross and I wrote an article for the Journal of Digital and Social Media Marketing. In it, we detailed a case study about Canada Research Connections (@CRCResearch) and how we applied social media marketing concepts, specifically content curation strategies, to more broadly engage a broad audience with academic research on sustainability.

An image showing arrows between two word bubbles and the phrase social media marketing
“Social Media Marketing” by Jerry Nihen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Over two years, we took a deliberate approach grounded in best practices in social media strategy. We attempted to build a network of interested followers friends, we engaged in reciprocity, sharing the posts produced by others, and we deliberately used engaging visuals, narratives, and accessible language in our posting. Furthermore, we ensured that we were posting to social media platforms on a regular schedule, and posting according to the times that were most appropriate for each platform. Finally, we tailored our content to suit different platforms. Longer posts and videos for facebook, short bite-sized content and retweets with images on Twitter, Strong images and short videos on Instagram, and longer videos with animations on YouTube. Every approach we followed was well known in the social media marketing world, but interestingly was not broadly used in science or sustainability communication. Instead, these communication domains tend to rely primarily on a more just the facts style communication with an academic presentation and tone.

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What can sustainability communicators learn from social media marketers?

Social Media and Information in a Post Cambridge Analytica World

I was fortunate enough to attend two great International academic conferences in the last two weeks. The first, The International Conference on Social Media and Society, took place at the Copenhagen Business School, and the second, the IEEE Professional Communications Conference, took place at the University of Toronto. The first conference was entirely about research having to do with social media, and included a panel about how social media research must change now that platforms are cutting access to their API’s in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The second conference was, broadly speaking, about technical communication, but included a plenary about how the ways we communicate can either facilitate accuracy, truth and information access, or undermine all of these things. The IEEE Professional Communications Conference also included panels centred around using social media to teach and research communication. Now, after both of these conferences, I have a few reflections of my own on social media, data gathering, research and access to information in a post Cambridge Analytica world.

A sidewalk spray painted in red with the words "facebook in death"
“Facebook” by Frank Hebbert. CC-BY-2.0. Available on Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/Sq4x8
  1. Post truth issues such as “alternative facts”, polarization, and propaganda cannot simply be countered with more information. It is clear that people are not swayed by data. Providing additional arguments to back up your claims will likely be countered with additional false information from the other side. The information bounty of online spaces facilitates this. So if we can’t counter mistruths or propaganda with more information what can we do?
  2. HOW you tell your story is very important in this context. This means that if you really want people to have access to truthful information, you have an obligation to present that information in a way that is accessible, including using plain language and easy-to-understand images, and telling a compelling story whenever possible. Humans tend to respond to narratives better than they respond to  straight repetition of facts, so science communicators and researchers need to think about how we can remain faithful to the facts while also telling a compelling story.
  3. Research therefore, and necessarily must focus on people – what do they want? What resonates with them? How do they access information? What do they believe to be true, and how does this influence how they engage with one another and with the information environment? Since access to API’s is becoming much more difficult in the wake of Cambridge Analytica, we will be challenged to come up with new methods for understanding what people do online, but this is also a wake up call for researchers, as we were becoming quite complacent scraping twitter for the low hanging fruit of our research, without having to ask critical questions about the limitations of API scraping.

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Social Media and Information in a Post Cambridge Analytica World

Using Technology to Understand Local News

This post is cross posted from medium.com. You can access the original here.

A map showing changes to local news outlets across Canada
A screen capture from Lindgren and Corbett’s (2018) Local News Map. Available at localnews.geolive.ca

This week marks the one year anniversary of our international conference: Is No Local News Bad News: Local Journalism and Its Future which was sponsored by SSHRC and the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre and held at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. This groundbreaking conference brought together an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars, journalists and media entrepreneurs to discuss the importance of local news to communities, the current state of local news around the world, the role of technology in local news, and what the future of local news could look like.

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Using Technology to Understand Local News

Access Denied? Public Scholarship and the peril of being a woman

Social media and web 2.0 have presented exciting new possibilities for sharing research with the world. While our research in the academy is often confined to discipline specific conferences and academic journals, stuck behind paywalls and accessible only to others in the academic community, self publishing our work on blogs, twitter, facebook, or other platforms allows researchers to communicate their work to a broad audience.

This trend is exciting. As you can see on this blog, I can, with no intermediary, share in plain language, why I think my research is important. People can access my work from around the world, and we can engage in debate or take research in new directions. Furthermore, it’s in the interests of society as a whole. As an academic, my work is at least in part funded by tax dollars. Thus it can be argued that I have an obligation to make my work available and accessible to the public who helps to fund my work.

With these social and scholarly benefits, it’s no wonder that many are advocating that all academics turn to social media platforms to share their research. Unfortunately, however, the question of whether or not to discuss your work in public online is neither simple nor straightforward for many women and people from marginalized populations – particularly those who work in critical gender and race studies, game studies and STEM.

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Access Denied? Public Scholarship and the peril of being a woman

Hello World: On Writing and Scholarship in Public

Writing longhand “Writing Longhand” by R. Crap Mariner on Flikr

As with any new WordPress blog, the first post you see when you load it up for the first time is the ubiquitous “Hello World” post. I’m thinking of leaving that post on my blog as I write this. Not to indicate a lack of familiarity with how to edit a blog, or to demonstrate a lack of professionalism, or a sort of ambivalence to blogging, but rather, because that phrase sums up an insecurity that I think we all have regarding public writing and public scholarship in particular.

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Hello World: On Writing and Scholarship in Public