I recently joined the chattering forces of Twitter. Not a decision taken lightly, as I am well aware of the obsessive-compulsive nature of social media. But I was attracted by the excellent community of practicing scientists sharing thoughts, research ideas and just being a bit silly.

Having watched from the sidelines for a few months now, and noticed something quite interesting. There was a fruitful and lively dialogue between established scientists – you know, busy people – and interested non-specialists. This kind of interaction was unheard of scarcely a few decades ago.

It may sound like a small thing, and in part it is, but it’s also a sign of how the face of science communication is changing. Social media use is pervasive, democratic and increasingly prevalent in developing countries with little or no science journalism in the press.

And while a pessimist may have prospected that science communication would have suffered with the advent of the likes of Twitter and Facebook, that we no longer know what is a trustworthy source and what is not, we’ve seen the rise of direct communication. Scientists, junior and senior, talking to people. Listening to people. This is a fundamentally valuable shift in the avenues for information, and, I may humbly argue, improves our focus and resolve for making science relevant to the lives of people around us.

A nice example of this is the British Library competition #ShareMyThesis. Graduate students convey the relevance of their labours in little 140-character nuggets, that range from the amusing;

To the bluntly modest;

To the downright terrifying;

Oh yeah, and TV references too;

This is a great example of forcing scientists to think about the big picture while providing a colourful landscape of the research of today. And no small feat too, considering it condenses a 50,000 word behemoth into a pithy and succinct phrase – and still manages to amuse in the process.


#ShareMyThesis is sponsored by the British Library and is full of amusing tales of research. Yours truly can now be followed on @scienceisnews for musings on neuroscience, journalism and science communication.