Issue Date: June 8, 2009
As at least one C&EN colleague likes to say, almost ad nauseam, “chemistry is everywhere,” and it’s even on TWITTER. On the surface, the micro-blogging social networking site might seem like a dumping ground for pointless status updates of a user’s day. After all, what can one expect to convey in a 140-character text-message-based post?
According to many science-minded users, more than you might think.
“You would, at first glance, think it’s quite limiting having to share an idea in just 140 characters,” says David Bradley, a U.K.-based science writer and frequent Twitter user. “As a journalist, I see it as being akin to writing a beefed-up headline.”
Bradley joined Twitter in June 2007 under the pseudonym “sciencebase,” which is also the name of his website, well before all the media hoopla surrounding Twitter began. “I probably accrued about 50 followers until I saw the light last autumn,” he tells C&EN. “At that point I realized that tweeting isn’t a one-way process and that the key to successfully using the service is engagement with other users.”
Bradley now has more than 4,000 followers.
It is this engagement that the science community could find helpful. For example, “sciencejobs_usa” and “ChemTwits” are resources for job opportunities. “Feministchemist” primarily posts commentary on news articles pertaining to women in science. And “WeirdSciBlog” frequently highlights unusual science articles you might not find anywhere else.
“Twitter is starting to bring me closer to chemists in a way I haven’t anticipated,” says Aleksey Zozulya, a 21-year-old chemistry student at the University of Delaware who has been using Twitter for almost a year. “It’s putting a human face on science,” he says, referring, in part, to the thumbnail portraits that mark many Twitter personae. “It’s allowing networking between people in the field as well as the general public. It helps grow interest in the scientific community.”
Under the Twitter page “Ch3m1st,” Zozulya primarily posts about his school or lab work, discussing with other chemists current projects, goals, and roadblocks. “I follow ‘chem_tweet’ for fun science facts,” he says. Also, the so-called trending technology the site uses “can really sweep the Internet to find out what people are talking about and what is important to them,” he says.
Individuals aren’t the only ones who tweet. Science organizations such as the American Chemical Society, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health have Twitter pages as well. And as expected, science journals and news outlets, including Science, Nature Chemistry, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and National Public Radio’s “Science Friday” also have a presence.
“There are lots of science types on Twitter who you will almost certainly share interests and who will be worth engaging with,” says Bradley. “Think of it as the coffee-break talk between conference lectures.”
Getting involved in the conversation is easy; just go to twitter.com and sign up. A comprehensive list of science- and chemistry-based pages can be found on a number of sites including wefollow.com, bit.ly/scientwists, and twibes.com/group/scientists.
Twitter, Zozulya says, “makes this big world a little smaller by connecting people together, 140 characters at a time.”
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