the October 2010 issue of The Scientist, Associate Editor Richard Grants noted in his editorial
that “only a fraction of researchers in the UK make frequent use of social
media tools.” I suspect that is also the case here in the US.
recently invited social media expert Patrick O’Malley (www.patrickomalley.com)
to lead a workshop for pre-docs, post-docs, and research fellows at the NCI. He
focused on how to use LinkedIn as a networking tool, including how to build a
professional profile so that people who are searching for you (whether for
keeping in touch, networking, or job opportunities) can easily find you. He
also discussed the use of YouTube, Twitter, and blogs to popularize or
publicize yourself and your work.
my surprise, the response and feedback from the few NCI fellows in attendance at
this workshop was rather lukewarm. Some felt that the social media techniques
Patrick suggested were irrelevant to the scientific (ahem, academic) job hunt.
Others felt that his tips for using YouTube or Twitter may even be frowned upon
in the scientific arena.
course, I will admit that Patrick usually teaches social media skills to those
working in business rather than in basic science. However, not being an expert
in social media myself, I thought that his tips were transferable to any
scientist who wanted to set up a professional profile on LinkedIn or learn how
to follow a famous researcher’s tweets (and yes, a professor I knew in grad
school is indeed tweeting about exciting cancer research news).
was disappointed by the reactions from the fellows at NCI regarding this
workshop. And I wondered: are scientists, on average, behind on the social
media learning curve? While we researchers are supposed to be at the forefront
of new and cutting-edge science and technology, why haven’t we embraced new tools
like social media? Can researchers use social media to promote themselves and
their work without fearing scrutiny and criticism from colleagues and
don’t have answers to these questions, but I’ll continue to explore some of
these issues. Please chime in with your thoughts.
The views expressed in this column are those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S.
Wenny Lin, PhD, MPH, is a fellow in the Cancer Prevention
Fellowship Program at the National Cancer Institute. Prior to joining the
Nutritional Epidemiology Branch in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology &
Genetics, Wenny earned her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2009
and her PhD in Cell & Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania