PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Micro-Blogging Science
An analysis of the @RealScientists twitter account

Fionnuala Murphy  

In the age of social media, science communication has become more complex and interactive. The immediacy of the platform allows for people from different strata in life to interact and engage with each other in 'Mode- 2' frame, with relative ease in what have become playful 'third spaces'. Scientists and researchers have traditionally not been seen to actively engage with the public outside of designated 'science outreach'. But with research funding increasingly awarded with an obligation to communicate findings, this separation of public from science is disappearing. Social media, in allowing people to interact daily, is speeding up this merging of audiences. This study takes an in depth look at the @RealScientists Twitter account: the curators, the followers and the administrators. The account was chosen as it reflects many different strands of science and science communication. A quantitative and qualitative analysis was performed on the Twitter archive of the account to discover how scientists approached curating an account with a different network to their own. A study of the account's followers was also undertaken to discover who they were and why they followed the account. We demonstrate that there is an appetite amongst non-scientists (and other disciplines) to peek into the working day of researchers. Former curators acknowledged potential professional benefits to being active on Twitter. The research also shows that in the case of curated Twitter accounts, the followers have considerable control over the conversation and the information disseminated.

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