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The secret silos of

#chemtwitter

An exploration of the chemistry network on Twitter, its silos, and its silo breakers

 

For scientists, Twitter provides a space to get advice, collaborate, and share research with colleagues around the world. According to a recent survey by C&EN of 244 chemists who use Twitter, 70% use the platform to network within their chemistry subdisciplines. Just 52% of chemists say they use Twitter to network with other disciplines and sciences.

C&EN took a closer look at the #ChemTwitter network with Paulette Vincent-Ruz, a PhD candidate in chemistry education at the University of Pittsburgh who researches the experiences and environments that make someone identify as a chemist or chemistry fan. Our study of over 2,000 chemistry accounts reveals that #ChemTwitter is more fragmented than may first appear. Read on to learn more about #ChemTwitter’s secret silos and meet nine silo breakers who can help and inspire you to broaden your network on Twitter.

The #ChemTwitter network appears simple when you consider connections based on who follows whom, as shown here for more than 2,000 accounts. But looking at who follows whom is just a small part of the #ChemTwitter picture. We wanted to know: How are chemists interacting with each other?

So we examined not only followers but also likes, comments, and retweets among 2,154 accounts. It turns out that 84% of them interact in 11 key silos. The silos tend to focus on specific topics as well as geographic regions.

There are 1,815 accounts in these 11 key silos. The remaining 300-some accounts fit into 16 small, unthemed silos containing fewer than 45 accounts each and are not considered here. The orange circles are topical silos, and the blue circles are regional silos. The larger the circle, the greater the number of accounts; and the line thickness is related to the amount of traffic between the silos.

Let’s take a closer look at these 11 silos.

The Analytical Chemists

The Analytical Chemists love spectroscopy and chromatography. They tend to talk with the Science Communicators, whom you will discover below. This could be because more than 60% of both groups are based in the UK.

There are 65 Analytical Chemist accounts.

Popular hashtags
#AnalyticalChemistry
#AnalyticalScience
#chromatography
#mdpimolecules
#RSCPoster
Accounts that break out of this silo
@analystrsc
@ChemistryBaker
@DuncanGraham70
@FauldsKaren
@tAnaSci

The Biochemists

The Biochemists work in biochemistry and similar disciplines, such as molecular biology. They care a lot about science communication, open-access publishing, and biochemical techniques like gene editing.

78% of the Biochemist accounts are in the US, so it’s no surprise that they talk the most with the North Americans and the US Journals Crowd.

There are 108 Biochemist accounts.

Popular hashtags
#Blavatnik2018
#CRISPR
#sciart
#scicomm
#ScienceOpen
Accounts that break out of this silo
@artologica
@biochembelle
@forensictoxguy
@Helena_LB
@NeedhiBhalla

The Environmental Chemists

The Environmental Chemists love, well, environmental chemistry. They are primarily atmospheric chemists concerned with air quality both inside and outside.

These folks interact with the North Americans the most, which makes sense because 71% of the accounts are based in the US and Canada.

There are 46 Environmental Chemist accounts.

Popular hashtags
#AirPollution
#AirQuality
#atmoschem
#Copernicus
#HOMEChem
Accounts that break out of this silo
@ArcticKerri
@EarthMechanic
@marinavance
@nadineborduas
@vfmcneill

The Chemistry Educators

The Chemistry Educators are dominated by chemistry teachers, many of them at the high school level. They interact the most with the North Americans—no surprise given that 96% of these accounts are based in the US and Canada.

This group is distinct from the Science Communicators, presumably because of the time difference between this group and those on the other side of the pond.

There are 85 Chemistry Educator accounts.

Popular hashtags
#BCCE2018
#chemchat
#NSTA
#scied
#STEM
Accounts that break out of this silo
@APchemisMe
@eposthuma
@IBChemNinja
@kaleb_underwood
@pchemstud

The Science Communicators

The Science Communicators are mostly working researchers who are passionate about science communication. This is also where you will find the Royal Society of Chemistry and Chemistry World.

This group interacts the most with the Brits, Europeans, and North Americans in about the same amounts. 73% of this group is based in the UK, suggesting this silo is also location based.

There are 304 Science Communicator accounts.

Popular hashtags
#asechat
#LTHEchat
#RealTimeChem
#scicomm
#ukedchat
Accounts that break out of this silo
@compoundchem
@doc_kristy
@jesswade
@paulcoxon
@RSC_EiC

The European Journals and Industry

The European Journals and Industry are made up of official journal and industry company accounts. 39% of these accounts are European journals, mostly those published by Wiley; industry and pharma make up another 22%.

Interestingly, this silo interacts with the North Americans the most, despite 69% of the accounts being based in Europe. That said, there is still a lot of communication between this group and the Europeans.

There are 96 European Journals and Industry accounts.

Popular hashtags
#AI
#BigData
#drugdiscovery
#EFMC_ISMC2018
#MachineLearning
Accounts that break out of this silo
@angew_chem
@ChemCatChem
@ChemEurJ
@ChemMedChem
@Wiley_Chemistry

The US Journals Crowd

The US Journals Crowd is 31% official US journal accounts, including those of the American Chemical Society and the National Academy of Sciences.

Personal accounts, including those of journal editors and chemistry reporters, make up 69% of this silo. That number is just 31% for European Journals and Industry.

Unsurprisingly, there is a massive amount of conversation between this group and the North Americans.

There are 314 US Journals Crowd accounts.

Popular hashtags
#ACSBoston
#BLACKandSTEM
#nano
#NobelPrize
#scicomm
Accounts that break out of this silo
@CarolynBertozzi
@cenmag
@DrRubidium
@jenheemstra
@L_wang_cen

The Australasians

The Australasians are largely from Australia and New Zealand. The Aussies and Kiwis who make up 53% of the accounts in this silo are passionate about science communication. They also communicate the most with the North Americans. Interestingly, 24% of accounts are chemists in the US, and 19% are chemists in Europe.

There are 148 Australasian accounts.

Popular hashtags
#Kiwicon
#ozchem
#RealTimeChem
#scicomm
#science
Accounts that break out of this silo
@howitt_julia
@Lady_Beaker
@MartinStoermer
@PalliThordarson
@RACInational

The Brits

The Brits are more passionate about scientific history than the rest of the silos. 67% of the chemists in this silo live in the UK.

They talk most to the Science Communicators, which makes sense given the strong presence of people from the UK in that group.

There are 157 Brit accounts.

Popular hashtags
#AI
#chemistry
#compchem
#histSTM
#OTD
Accounts that break out of this silo
@draper1504
@MattOKitch
@prof_djadams
@professor_dave
@Thecopperdoctor

The Europeans

The Europeans care a lot about early-career chemists. This silo has the largest European representation and draws from twice as many European countries as any of the other silos, although the majority of the accounts originate in the UK. Nature Chemistry is also a part of this silo.

Interestingly, the Europeans talk to the North Americans more than any other silo by a landslide.

There are 198 European accounts.

Popular hashtags
#ECRchat
#OPCW
#PhDchat
#PostDoc
#RealTimeChem
Accounts that break out of this silo
@HansellThe
@janhjensen
@kamerlinlab
@leecronin
@stuartcantrill

The North Americans

The North Americans are dominated by chemists based in the US or Canada (78%). Accounts in this silo interact the most with the US Journals Crowd, which makes sense since the majority of chemists in both silos are based in the US and Canada.

There are 294 North American accounts.

Popular hashtags
#chemjobs
#chemtwitter
#compchem
#phdchat
#RealTimeChem
Accounts that break out of this silo
@AlexFGoldberg
@Chemjobber
@christine_m_le
@heydebigale
@SuperScienceGrl

Most popular hashtags

You might have noticed some hashtag trends across the silos. Here are the top 25 hashtags used by all 2,154 accounts. You can use these to reach the chemistry community on Twitter. The larger the word, the more popular it is. The most popular hashtag will come as no surprise. #RealTimeChem was used 9,348 times in 2018 by the accounts included in the network studied.

There are also some interesting regional differences in the hashtags chemists use on Twitter. For example, #womeninscience is a top hashtag for Europeans, but #womeninSTEM is more popular in the North American and Australasian groups. Another example is #ChemTwitter, which is exclusive to the North America–based silos.

At what time do you tweet?

These are the ideal times to tweet if you want to reach a specific silo. The darker colors are times of heavy tweeting in that silo, the lighter colors are more moderate, and no color is light tweeting.

20:00 21:00 22:00 23:00 0:00 1:00 2:00 3:00 4:00 5:00 6:00 7:00 8:00 9:00 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00 EDT
Description 0:00 1:00 2:00 3:00 4:00 5:00 6:00 7:00 8:00 9:00 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00 20:00 21:00 22:00 23:00 UTC
The US Journals Crowd
The Science Communicators
The North Americans
The Europeans
The Brits
The Australasians
The Biochemists
The European Journals and Industry
The Chemistry Educators
The Analytical Chemists
The Environmental Chemists
 

Meet the silo breakers

Silo breakers are chemists on Twitter who bridge the gaps. For example, if you’re already on Twitter, you’ve probably encountered Chemjobber or Stuart Cantrill, no matter which silo you belong to.

Below are 9 silo breakers you may not know about. These accounts do more than retweet posts from outside their silos; they also take the time to comment on posts in at least 2 other silos, and most of these silo breakers interact with accounts outside their silos at least 10% of the time. Follow and watch these accounts, and follow the top 5 silo breakers of each silo if you want to expand your network into other territory.

 

Our methods

Twitter accounts were initially compiled using commonly used chemistry hashtags, as well as lists from popular chemistry accounts such as @RealTimeChem. We used text mining analysis validation procedures to confirm that the 2,154 accounts in this study were chemistry accounts. All accounts had to be active and have a minimum of 100 followers. Interactions are defined as likes, retweets, and comments. Data were collected from Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2018. Data were collected using English keywords and hashtags, so the bulk of the accounts in this analysis are from English-speaking countries. Location data were available for 1,567 of the accounts included in the study. The breakdown of those accounts is as follows: less than 1% Africa, 51% Americas, 2% Asia, 41% Europe, and 5% Oceania.

For more information about the data analysis, please stay tuned for a future peer-reviewed publication by Vincent-Ruz.

Credits

Research: Paulette Vincent-Ruz

Story: Dorea Reeser

Editing: Sabrina Ashwell, Jyllian Kemsley, and Amanda Yarnell

Design and illustration: Rob Bryson and Kay Youn

Illustration: Chris Gash

Development: Tchad Blair

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