PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Footprints of Fascination
Digital Traces of Public Engagement with Particle Physics on Social Media

Kate Kahle  

Particle physics provides an especially challenging topic for science communication: It is abstract, esoteric and dependent on massive and publicly-funded machines, yet it can be uniquely awe-inspiring. Physicists and physics institutes are increasingly being called upon to engage with the public through social media. However, little is known about the ways in which lay audiences interact with physics content on these media. Open questions include: What do social media users want to know about particle physics? How does social media shape public engagement with physics? This session aims to contribute a reflective, evidence-based approach to these questions among others. Session chair: Ayelet Baram-Tsabari, Associate Professor at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology "Strategy into practice: What works and what doesn't on CERN's social media platforms?" Kate Kahle, Social Media Manager at CERN, explains how an in-depth analysis of CERN social media grew from CERN's communication strategy. She examines the characteristics of scientific items on social media that attracted high engagement and draws conclusions for shaping future content. "A quantitative analysis of public engagement with science on CERN's social media platforms" Aviv J. Sharon, Science Communication Researcher at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, examines the characteristics of public engagement with different types of scientific items posted on different social media platforms. User interactions (standardized per 1000 users) are more common in platforms with smaller audiences. "Sharing physics: How voice, relationships, and best practices influence engagement" Lauren Biron, Social Media Manager at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and Editor at Symmetry Magazine, a magazine of particle physics published jointly by Fermilab and SLAC laboratories, discusses the use of social media by Fermilab and Symmetry magazine. Creating a fun, accessible voice while forging personal relationships increased audience traffic and supported the outlets' goals of sharing international particle physics with the science-interested public.

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