Science is becoming increasingly contentious and politicized. In light of such increasing politicization, scientists need to better connect with public audiences, whose taxes fund approximately 60 percent of the academic research conducted in the U.S. How the American public perceive and understand science and its practitioners will likely affect scientific research and development the federal government supports. One way for scientists to connect with the public is through new communication technologies afforded by advances of the internet. Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of online social media are increasingly breaking down barriers between scientists, societal elites, and lay audiences. Yet, we lack empirical data on scientists’ use and perceptions of social media. In this study, we conducted a survey of tenure-track scientists at a large Midwestern research university asking them about their use of social media for both general and science-related purposes. Using these data, we explored variables that influence general social media use and, more specifically, use of the social networking platforms Facebook and Twitter for science-related purposes. We found that, relative to the general public, fewer scientists reported using social media in general. Among these, the proportion of scientists who use Facebook for sciencerelated purposes is comparable to the public at large. Interestingly, a larger proportion of scientists use Twitter as compared to the general public. This lends some credibility to the idea that social media, particularly Twitter, may be a viable outlet for scholarly discussion and one that may be viewed among scientists as having the potential to increase research productivity. We also found that liberal scientists tended to use Facebook more than their conservative counterparts. This finding is consistent with data collected from the general public and may be indicative of a growing liberal echo chamber, even among scientists, on the social media platform. Finally, the use of social media for science-related purposes, whether active or passive, predicted Twitter but not Facebook use and greater interest in actively seeking new ways to share science was a significant predictor of Twitter, but not Facebook, use. The implications of our findings are discussed.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Twitter as the social media of choice for sharing science

Sara Yeo   University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

Michael Cacciatore   University of Georgia, United States

Dominique Brossard   University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

Dietram Scheufele   University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

Michael Xenos   University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

Science is becoming increasingly contentious and politicized. In light of such increasing politicization, scientists need to better connect with public audiences, whose taxes fund approximately 60 percent of the academic research conducted in the U.S. How the American public perceive and understand science and its practitioners will likely affect scientific research and development the federal government supports. One way for scientists to connect with the public is through new communication technologies afforded by advances of the internet. Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of online social media are increasingly breaking down barriers between scientists, societal elites, and lay audiences. Yet, we lack empirical data on scientists’ use and perceptions of social media. In this study, we conducted a survey of tenure-track scientists at a large Midwestern research university asking them about their use of social media for both general and science-related purposes. Using these data, we explored variables that influence general social media use and, more specifically, use of the social networking platforms Facebook and Twitter for science-related purposes. We found that, relative to the general public, fewer scientists reported using social media in general. Among these, the proportion of scientists who use Facebook for sciencerelated purposes is comparable to the public at large. Interestingly, a larger proportion of scientists use Twitter as compared to the general public. This lends some credibility to the idea that social media, particularly Twitter, may be a viable outlet for scholarly discussion and one that may be viewed among scientists as having the potential to increase research productivity. We also found that liberal scientists tended to use Facebook more than their conservative counterparts. This finding is consistent with data collected from the general public and may be indicative of a growing liberal echo chamber, even among scientists, on the social media platform. Finally, the use of social media for science-related purposes, whether active or passive, predicted Twitter but not Facebook use and greater interest in actively seeking new ways to share science was a significant predictor of Twitter, but not Facebook, use. The implications of our findings are discussed.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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