Everybody loves a good “Top 10” list, right?
Turns out that’s not always true. Last week, Science magazine published “The Top 50 Science Stars of Twitter,” a list attempting to collect the most-followed, most-cited scientists regularly putting their thoughts into 140-character snippets. The list was assembled in response to comments made by genomics researcher Neil Hall, who suggested that scientists should stop wasting time on Twitter and publish more papers.
The list that Science produced was just as heavily criticized as Hall’s comments. The chemistry community was particularly irked over the fact that neuroscientists, biologists—even physicists—made the list. But nary a chemist is mentioned.
In response to the hubbub, Chemical & Engineering News (@cenmag on Twitter) asked members of the Twitterverse to list some of their favorite tweeting chemists. And we assembled a panel of experts to tell us which chemists on Twitter are “ones to follow”—in other words, those using the social network to discuss chemistry, everyday research, employment, science and society, and quirky or amazing experiments. “Interactions are the most important part of Twitter,” says one of our experts, Matthew Hartings (@sciencegeist), a professor of inorganic and food chemistry at American University and a member of C&EN’s advisory board. He argues that the best Twitter strategy is to follow individuals who interact often rather than people with “a bajillion” followers. Chances are, he says, those Twitter celebrities aren’t joining in conversations all that much.
Using suggestions from our panel and from the Twitterverse, we compiled a list of 20 chemists worth following. To be on this list, there were two requirements: You have to be trained as a chemist, and you have to be practicing chemistry. We realize this leaves out excellent writers such as Deborah Blum (@deborahblum) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and popular editors such as Stuart Cantrill (@stuartcantrill) at Nature Chemistry. It also excludes collectives such as the Periodic Table of Videos (@periodicvideos), a group of chemists at the University of Nottingham who produce entertaining clips about laboratory experiments and much more.
But we had to start somewhere.
Along with our five panelists, we view this list of 20 as a primer for chemists looking to dip their toes into the ocean that is Twitter. Each of them is worth following because they contribute meaningfully to the discussion of chemistry on the social network.
Nature Chemistry’s Cantrill devised his own list of 100 chemists on Twitter using criteria different from ours. You can see and subscribe to that list here. It includes a number of journalists, including some of C&EN’s own. To see and subscribe to a list of our reporters, click here.
We’ve created a list at our @cenmag Twitter account containing our panelists and chosen 20. Our panelists, of course, are worth following, too (otherwise we wouldn’t have selected them). You can access the list here and subscribe to it by clicking the “Subscribe” button in the upper left-hand portion of the screen.
One of the reasons Science magazine’s list was criticized is that it contains only 8% women and few minorities. Our panelists certainly gave this some thought when selecting their favorite tweeters. But no list is perfect. So we hope you’ll comment below to tell us what you like about our list, what you don’t like, and who else you think should be on it.