Twitter in an academic life

Svetlana Ugarcina Perovic

In this current moment of pandemic-induced remote work, now more than ever, having an online presence is important. Twitter is definitely one of the most powerful platforms for promoting and disseminating academic outputs in a less formal way. In this post, I will show you how beneficial could be scrolling meaningful short messages – tweets – for your research and how Twitter users – tweeps – can help you make a far greater impact. At the end of the post, you can find a list of good reads not only about Twitter, but also academic profile platforms that can make your academic life much easier.

I love Twitter. I use Twitter everyday. It has been helpful in my professional development and makes my academic life a way more fun – obviously, this post will be mostly a biased personal opinion. I met on Twitter my first postdoc supervisor @watermicrobe, current supervisor @luispedrocoelho, @MicrobiomDigest creator, and many other tweeps that have been sharing invaluable knowledge while shaping my academic life.

Note: If you are newbee, how to use Twitter is very well covered by @dsquintana [1], @emilymbender [2] and @statsepi [3].

When I think about what is Twitter in academia, I couldn’t agree more with @airplanereading [4]: Twitter is a way to write, an archive, a venue in which to be cited, a great teaching tool, a mode of communication, a way to promote your work, a critical platform, and a community.

To me, Twitter is critical for sharing ideas and experience, keeping up to date with the newest studies and hottest topics of my interest, and following a conference, meeting &c when I am not able personally to participate in it. In other words, knowledge and networking. And to a great degree, Twitter is a good place to ask for help and give support. Earlier, while preparing the presentation for my @BigDataBiology colleagues and eventually this post, I asked my science tweeps:

Fig1

Apparently, science tweeps mainly use Twitter for science news. Not a surprise at all. But only a few tweeps admitted that they use Twitter to promote their work and tweet about their academic achievements. On the other hand, the science news that we want to read needs to come from someone’s bragging or serving and that is what creates valuable content on our Twitter feed. Also, we should keep in mind that self-promotion isn’t only about ourselves but the impact of our work while helping others in a meaningful way. So, let’s get all on board with self-promotion isn’t about bragging [5].

Sharing experience and information. One advantage of Twitter is that it gives you the capability to connect to a much larger community outside of your university or lab, thus to expand your resources for information that can assist with your research project. One of the best examples of sharing experience among tweeps are actually threads opened with a question on e.g. how to efficiently tailor your CV, find suitable articles to cite, or which workshop to attend. Often just searching through Twitter you can find the answer that you are looking for.

Fig2

Tweets by @s_wuyts and @penguinsci

Spreading your work. It has been shown that Altmetric Attention Score (an indicator of the amount and reach of the attention an article has received) positively correlated with citation rates and increasingly driven by Twitter [6, 7]. So, tweeting out a paper you wrote or sharing an update on your software is quite a boost to your academic outputs. I’m a big fan of paper summary threads, a TL;DR version of the work’s most interesting insights, especially when there is a behind-the-paper story on how the idea came about with a photo from sampling or a figure that didn’t end up in the final version. Again, self-promotion isn’t about bragging.

Fig3

Tweets by @MagdalenaKsi and @celiodiasjunior

Helping and supporting. Tweeps are not writing only about their published work, you can read about their activities as well. Frequently this kind of information can help you find your own next activity. Tweeps also write about their problems and you can be easily surprised how a supportive community on Twitter can be.

Fig4

Tweets by @amyhouseman__ and @VickiBall94

Following a conference, meeting &c when I am not able virtually-personally to participate in it is an advantage of Twitter that I like a lot. Just find out the event’s hashtag, e.g. #ISMB2020 or #WorldMicrobeForum, and all the take-home messages will be there to grab. Also, I found getting started with Twitter at a conference using the hashtag was a good way to get into networking and finding new tweeps. When in person, mingling at the conference is much easier (and fun) with your tweeps and hashtag can be your starter for conversion.

Finding opportunities. Often PhD/postdoc/job positions are advertised on Twitter before the official ad goes public. Tip: find a community, e.g. dedicated to PhD researchers and focused on your research interest, to be informed with the latest postdoc offers or simply ask for an opportunity. Who you follow is a huge contributor to what you get out of Twitter.

Fig5

Tweets by @Pdorrestein1, @clauseidl and @anna_cusco

Having fun. It’s not all about science. If I’m not reading about science, then I’m scrolling through mineral collection by @MikeNeug or comics by @upmicblog. Also, if I’m not tweeting about science, then I’m shamelessly bragging about my cooking skills.

Fig6

A word of caution. The internet has its dark sides, and from time to time, you will come across some negativity. Luckily you have a button Block (my preference over Mute). But mostly in Twitterverse, you will find a welcoming, knowledgeable and supportive community. There’s one important rule: Be kind. Always.

See you on Twitter!

@svetlana_up

Further reading on why and how to tweet:

[1] Why scientists should use Twitter & Twitter for Scientists, @dsquintana

[2] On Using Twitter, @emilymbender

[3] Can social media be useful for scientists?, @statsepi

[4] The Academic Advantages of Twitter, @airplanereading

[5] Three reasons to use social media for scientific self-promotion, @Steve_Gibney

[6] Tweet success? Scientific communication correlates with increased citations in Ecology and Conservation, @ClaytonTLamb PeerJ 2018

[7] Does Tweeting Improve Citations? One-Year Results From the TSSMN Prospective Randomized Trial, @JessicaLuc1 The Annals of Thoracic Surgery 2020

About (other) academic profile platforms:

Michigan State University Science Communication Guide, @MSUnews

Social Media Platforms for Academics, A Breakdown of the Networks, @HigherEdPR

Why I’m not jumping on the ORCID bandwagon, @BioMickWatson

Google Scholar profiles, @amy_tabb

Fig7

Tweet by @luispedrocoelho

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