Is the science world sluggish to adapt to social media?

On Monday and Tuesday last, Trinity College @tcddublin hosted EISRI 2013: European Intersectoral Summit on Research and Innovation #sciencemedia #EISRI.Summit on Research and Innovation The theme of the summit was the role of media (and new media) in responsible research and innovation with discussions on important topics to the science community and the general public, including research ethics, open access and the role of science journalism. One of the stand-out talks of the day was by Alexander Gerber @InnoKomm, an information scientist and the Managing Director of Innocomm Research, which is a Berlin-based research centre for science and innovation communication. Alexander stressed that communication both among scientists and between science and society is undergoing a paradigm shift that is fundamentally redefining the communicative requirements. This change is driven by the horizontalization of information, with the Internet as the enabling technology. The science world, according to Alexander, is discovering the potential to break away from the ‘push’ paradigm of the last 15 years, where basic research was the leading force responsible for scientific progress. The main deficit of this paradigm espoused by Gerber is that the ‘social contract’ between science and society is not being reached – that the importance of the role scientific institutions is not being conveyed to the lay person. The ultimate result of this is that when governments are implementing measures to reduce state deficits, it is all to often the institutions which have not captured the social imagination that fall victim to cuts – regardless of their importance. Gerber expresses the need for ‘scientific citizenship’ – a world where science is in constant dialogue with the social sphere. The influence of social media would clearly play a key role in this culture of communication. However, Gerber states the hesitance of the science world to adapt to the communicative potential presented by internet technologies. One of the more damning statistics he reeled off was that twitter has been rejected by 80.5% of scientific communicators  surveyed in a comprehensive Web technology use and needs analysis conducted between February and June 2012 in nine German research institutes by Gerber himself. There is hope though – the same study found that 73.7% of researchers have demanded training in social media as an means of disseminating their findings. The ultimate point is that widespread scientific citizenship is more than an academic endeavour – it involves the kind of cultural and systemic change that social media is ripe to accommodate.

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You can access the full article by Alexander Gerber here.

About the author: Conor Hughes works as a Marketing Executive at Life Science Recruitment

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