#Sciencefluencer – communicating science at eye level

2020-10-13

The increasing popularity of social media platforms such as facebook, Instagram, twitter, and TikTok, has greatly influenced the way information are spreading nowadays. An estimated 3.6 billion people worldwide have been using social media in 2020 (statista.com), from which a growing group of people is even relying on social media as their primary source for news. Especially the younger generations seem to be less oriented towards traditional mass media. This trend is no surprise, as people generally tend to pay more attention to information retrieved by sources they ‘like’ and identify with.

Despite a lot of communication efforts, a considerable amount of scientific results is still kept behind pay walls and inaccessible language. Due to this, science is often viewed as inconceivable and researchers as competent, but cold people. The current pandemic has highlighted the importance of providing information accessible for everyone once again. Regarding this, not only current results of research need to be communicated. There is a strong need to show how research works in general, that it is a slow process being subject to constant changes – including wrong hypotheses.

Scientists themselves have a good chance to influence the public image of science by creating space for dialogue, and social media might provide the required foundation for this task. They offer the opportunity to directly get in touch with the public. Indeed, the immediacy of the contact and the possible inclusion of personality can be helpful in increasing public trust in science and improving the perception of scientists. For instance, a study by Jarreau et al. (2019) found that ‘scientists posting lab selfies to Instagram were perceived as warmer and more trustworthy’. However, it should be noted the lack of a mediator in this direct relationship also implies that information needs to be shared responsibly.

I have started my own journey with scicomm on social media in 2016, when I opened my Instagram page @stina.biologista. At the time, I was a bachelor student and wanted to share the content of my studies with family and friends. I did not plan to turn this Instagram page into a scientific outreach project, but I soon found myself in a growing and supportive community. Sharing my passion for science and daily research life – including the hurdles –became a fulfilling hobby and I personally see great potential in utilizing social media for science communication.

Jarreau PB, Cancellare IA, Carmichael BJ, Porter L, Toker D, Yammine SZ (2019) Using selfies to challenge public stereotypes of scientists. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0216625

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