Cross-Pollination: The Value of Social Media for Science Research

Cross-pollination is pollination of a flower or plant with pollen from another flower or plant. It is an amazing process that creates genetic diversity, protecting species against change. Today, I want to use it in a metaphorical sense to discuss the communication of science and the sharing of ideas.

This year I decided to start using several social media platforms, for research purposes of course. After only a few months, I am definitely an advocate for researchers on social media. Through resources like twitter, facebook, linkedin and this blog I have been able to see a greater connection between myself and other researchers, and between myself and community. I believe that these connections are worth the time it takes to a develop social media. Why? Power.

When I was considering starting a PhD the last thing I wanted to do was to spend years of my life researching, only to produce a thesis that became a bookshelf decoration. I wanted to do something that would make a contribution – and not just in the sense of a ‘novel contribution to literature’ because there is masses of literature out there. I wanted to make a contribution that would be felt by communities – academic and non-academic alike. I have seen now that social media, and the connections that can be generated by them, create power to contribute far beyond the scope of a thesis.

Here are a few examples:

RadioNZ is my favourite radio station. Today, Jesse Mulligan saw an article about my research in a Waikato magazine called ‘Horizons’ and decided he wanted to interview me. Twitter was the first media point of contact where Jesse contacted me and set up a call with his producer Simone. While talking to her, I discovered that my blog had been used as background research for the program. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview and got to share my research with who know how many radio listeners. Social media allowed me to extend my network, and hence extend the reach of my research.

Jesse Mulligan

I have been contacted several times through Facebook with invitations to share my research in local newspapers and meetings.

I have been able to contribute to the rising generation by sharing my research with children at a local primary (elementary) school. Getting kids excited about science is a rewarding experience. They soak it up and then they share it! This doesn’t really have much to do with social media, but it does have to do with being  willing to reach out to the community and share.

Aberdeen

This post is obviously getting a bit long now, so I will wrap up by saying if you are a researcher who is not actively engaged in social media I urge you to consider it. It will give you power, not only to build connections that will benefit your research, but will give you power to contribute to others who will benefit from your research.

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