How to host a successful chat on Twitter

Helen KaraDr Helen Kara has been an independent researcher since 1999 and writes and teaches on research methods.

She is the author of Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide (Policy Press, 2015). She is not, and never has been, an academic, though she has learned to speak the language.

In 2015, Helen was the first fully independent researcher to be conferred as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the UK’s National Centre for Research Methods. Her latest book is Research Ethics in the Real World: Euro-Western and Indigenous Perspectives (Policy Press, 2018).

Helen’s website is helenkara.com and she tweets at @DrHelenKara. You can support her work on Patreon. Her ORCID is 0000-0001-7348-0963.


Image by Marc Wathieu | flickr.com

Image by Marc Wathieu | flickr.com

I have hosted and co-hosted a number of chats on Twitter under existing hashtags, and last month I set up my own Twitter chat on creative research methods.

In case you’re new to all this, a hashtag is a way of keeping track of topics and content on Twitter. For example, if you want to know what people are saying about marmalade, you can search Twitter for #marmalade (pro tip: then click ‘latest’ for most recent content) and you’ll find that marmalade is not only a foodstuff but a popular name for pets. You can use hashtags, follow hashtags and invent hashtags. They’re a great tool for reducing bazillions of apparently random tweets to a string of tweets that you actually want to read.

I write about creative research methods. It’s a topic that holds great interest for me and I know for a number of others too. So I decided to set up a monthly chat on Twitter. I played around with a few ideas for hashtags. The obvious #creativeresearchmethods and #creativeresearchmethodschat were too long and cumbersome. In the end I settled for #crmethods (for discussion in between the monthly chats) and #crmethodschat (for the chats themselves). To my delight, neither of those hashtags were in use on Twitter. It’s always worth checking that before you make a final decision. I remember going to a conference where the event’s hashtag was also being used by a European music festival with some quite, er, liberated practices, which meant the conference Twitterfeed was entertaining in rather more ways than the organisers had intended! Read more of this post

preLights: A new way to share research?

Máté Pálfy is the Community Manager for preLights, a preprint highlighting service that was launched a year ago by the not-for-profit publisher The Company of Biologists.

Before taking up this role, Máté did his PhD at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, studying gene regulation using zebrafish embryos. He is a big supporter of open science and is excited to see how preprints will shape the future of publishing. Máté tweets from @mate_palfy and you can follow preLights @preLights

The Research Whisperer was very interested to hear more about preLights because we’re always up for different ways of sharing research, and this model appears to benefit the researchers, our scholarly communities, and the research itself. That’s winning all around!

While preLights is focused on the biological sciences, the potential for its format extends much further than this area.   


preLights 1st birthday cake! Photo from Mate Palfy.

preLights 1st birthday cake! Photo from Máté Pálfy.

When I was a PhD student, one of my favourite things to do was to discuss the latest experiments and results related to my research, and exchange views on where the field was heading.

I particularly enjoyed poster sessions at conferences, where early career researchers can easily engage with more established scientists and discuss unpublished, ‘raw’ science.

In many aspects, preprints (non-reviewed versions of manuscripts deposited on a public server) can be viewed as similar to unpublished research presented at conferences and other meetings. They facilitate collaboration and open discussions about the work, but are much more transparent than conference talks or posters, as the details of the work are better documented. Given these advantages (along with a number of others, discussed here), you might think that researchers would’ve already made the public discussion of preprints part of their routine. Unfortunately, this hasn’t really been the case. Read more of this post

What I like seeing researchers post

Photo by Jason Leung | unsplash.com

Photo by Jason Leung | unsplash.com

‘But I haven’t got anything to say!’

This is one of the most common laments I hear when I’m running social media workshops, particularly from emerging scholars.

Researchers – many of whom we know are rather fond of holding forth (it’s tough to make them stop) – suddenly clam up when they’re staring at their newly created Twitter account or Facebook page. They’re sometimes wary of the exposure, often anxious of doing something ‘wrong’, and rarely at ease with platforms from the start.

To address this stumbling point in my ‘Researchers and social media’ workshops, I indicate what might be good content for a researchers’ social media stream. It’s a starting point to think about what types of information to include, how they’d source that information and what they might ‘sound’ like.

This post is a more detailed version of my earlier post about what I tweet (when I was running three different types of accounts…which was before I was running four different types of accounts!).

Small caveat: What I include in that workshop is not definitive; it’s not based on scads of data. It’s what I find in others’ social media streams that I think is valuable, and the people and organisations who share this kind of stuff will probably be followed or liked by me.  Read more of this post

Lights, cameras, science: Using video to engage broader audiences

Katie Pratt is a science writer and editor with an eye for design, a talent she makes use of as a content developer, communications instructor, and video producer for the Deep Carbon Observatory (deepcarbon.net, @deepcarb on Twitter).

She holds a PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry from Brown University and was a 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Community Engagement Fellow.

Katie has organised and participated in field trips around the world, including Costa Rica, Oman, Italy, and the Azores. If you have any questions about the expedition or the film, Katie is happy to be contacted at katie_pratt@uri.edu.


There’s no escaping the fact that having broader impact activities on your CV is a must for any researcher today.

Whether it’s to help you obtain funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), improve your chances of an academic appointment, or get you a job outside of academia altogether, sharing what you do with someone other than your colleagues can help your career.

It’s one of the reasons I find myself writing this post.

After blogging my way through the second half of my PhD, I was hired by the Deep Carbon Observatory’s (DCO) Engagement Team to write stories about their scientists and the work they do. The DCO is an international network of nearly 1000 multi-disciplinary scientists committed to investigating the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of carbon in deep Earth. Founded in 2009, this decade-long program has brought together biologists, physicists, geoscientists, chemists, and many others whose work crosses these disciplinary lines, forging a new, integrative field of deep carbon science.

Five years on, there’s a lot more to my job and, as a professional “jack of all trades”, I found myself in the field last year with a team of talented early career scientists, investigating the biology, petrology, and geochemistry of the Costa Rican volcanic arc.

When we set out on a field expedition to Costa Rica in 2017, called “Biology Meets Subduction,” we really focused on engagement and outreach.

We were lucky. Our funder, the DCO/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, was 100% behind the idea, and our budget included money for a professional video crew to join us in the field.

Read more of this post

Managing an Early Career Researcher blog

Research Whisperer Tseen Khoo has been a big fan of the Australian Historical Association’s Early Career Researcher blog since it started in October 2016. She jumped at a recent opportunity to invite the blog editors, Carolyn Holbrook and Margaret Hutchison, to write for Research Whisperer about why they do it and how. In a contemporary context where many Early Career Researchers are encouraged to only do things that benefit themselves, we love boosting those who are generous sharers and stage-setters for their peers. The Australian Historical Association’s Early Career Researcher blog, and how its content gets shared, demonstrates the kind of community-building that can happen within disciplines and with the support of an established academic society. More power to these kinds of initiatives! 

Dr Carolyn Holbrook is an Alfred Deakin Research Fellow at Deakin University. She is writing a history of Australians’ attitudes towards their federal system of government, and co-authoring with Professor James Walter a history of policy-making in Australia. Carolyn is the author of the award-winning book, Anzac: The Unauthorised Biography, about the history of how Australians have remembered the First World War. She tweets from @sigmundmarx.

 

Dr Margaret Hutchison is a Lecturer in History in the National School of Arts at the Australian Catholic University. Her research interests include the First World War, war art, memory studies and cultural history.

She tweets from @meggiehutchison.


How did the Australian Historical Association’s ECR Blog get started?

This is a question that requires an origin story — just what we history types love! It’s quite simple really. We started the blog as a way to spark discussion among Early Career Researchers in history, and to highlight the particular challenges we face.

Recording a radio play | Photo from the Spaarnestad Collection of the National Archives in The Hague | flickr.com

Recording a radio play | Photo from the Spaarnestad Collection of the National Archives in The Hague | flickr.com

When we considered the best means of promoting awareness of ECR issues, we came up with the idea of asking people to tell their personal stories.

We thought that these stories could serve several purposes: they could put a powerful, personal face on the challenges faced by ECRs (for example, long hours, low pay, precarity, relationship and mental health breakdowns); create a sense of community and solidarity among ECRs; provide ECRs with practical experience of writing succinctly about themselves and their research; and enhance the profile of emerging scholars among the wider community of historians.

Our blog has grown from that original idea. We now have a Q&A series with senior historians, a series in which historians describe a book, or article, or object, that has inspired their career, and a ‘How To’ series (featuring a very popular post by you, Tseen!), in which experts describe how to do such things as write a book proposal, do a radio interview or write a job application. Our most popular series is about Emerging Historians, featuring profiles of ECRs and their research. Read more of this post

Giving a voice to early-career researchers

Here at the Research Whisperer, we’re fans of crowdfunding and Open Access. When we heard about Lateral’s campaign to crowdfund so that it could continue publication and pay its contributors, we invited them to tell us more. Thanks, Andrew and Tessa, for filling us in on your wonderful project. 

Andrew Katsis is a behavioural ecologist and third-year PhD candidate at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia. He has been Life Science editor for Lateral magazine since 2015.

Andrew tweets from @andrew_katsis.

Tessa Evans is a chemist who now works at the New Zealand Science Media Centre. She has been involved with Lateral magazine since 2015, and has been its editor-in-chief since 2017. Tessa tweets from @tessaeevans.

If you’d like to support emerging science writers and engaging science writing, you can still contribute to the Lateral campaign. If we all chipped in the money we’d spend on a couple of coffees, their target would be met! 


Cover of Lateral magazine for "Slow" (#12) - illustration by Olivia Baenziger

Cover of Lateral magazine for “Slow” (#12) – illustration by Olivia Baenziger

Scientific research is an important pursuit, but all your hard work may be for nothing if your results and insights don’t find their way beyond the lab bench to policymakers and the public. Because of this, researchers are increasingly encouraged to communicate their work to non-scientists, through media appearances, blogs, podcasts and other forms of public engagement.

At the same time, we have also seen the rise of professional science communicators—non-researchers who specialise in converting jargon into easily digestible language. But you can’t rely solely on science communicators to do your job for you; people also want to hear directly from the source.

How else will the public (or your family) know what you’ve been working so hard on, if you can’t explain it to them?

Learning how to communicate research doesn’t come easily to many people, and most graduates simply aren’t trained in how to talk to a general audience. In Australia, for example, there are only a handful of standalone courses in science communication, and just two degrees that specialise in this skill: the Master of Science Communication at the Australian National University, and the newly-minted course of the same name at the University of Western Australia, which starts this year.

Since there are so few opportunities within institutions, we wanted to help researchers develop these science communication skills.

In 2015, a small group of emerging researchers — mostly recent graduates from the University of Melbourne — came together to create Lateral, an online magazine written and edited by early-career scientists.

Read more of this post

Postdoc pathfinding (Part 2)

Dr Beth Linas is the Manger of Research and Science at Vibrent Health, a health technology company whose goal is to use data-driven and evidence-based solutions for preventing, monitoring, diagnosing and treating diseases.

Prior to this role, she served as a fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) with the Smart and Connected Health Program, and the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research effort at the National Science Foundation.

Beth completed her postdoc fellowship in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where she also completed her PhD (2014) and Masters of Health Science (MHS, 2010). Her research and policy interests include the application of computer science to advance health as well as understanding how to develop and scale evidence-based digital and mobile health platforms to improve health outcomes.

Beth is passionate about and works to promote scientists who communicate science. She tweets from @bethlinas.


The Research Whisperer was approached by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to feature a couple of their great fellowship stories. We were happy to showcase the fantastic opportunities available to scientists through their programs. If you’re interested in applying for the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowshipapplications are due November 1! Please note: you must hold US citizenship, or dual citizenship from US and another country.

If you know of non-US programs that do similar things, please comment with links so that your colleagues can be aware of them and follow them up!


[Part 1 of Beth’s story appeared last week]

Photo by Mike Enerio | unsplash.com

Photo by Mike Enerio | unsplash.com

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellowship (STPF) application process is in-depth, challenging and long.

I submitted my initial application 1 November, 2014, and it wasn’t until July 1, 2015 that I knew where I was going to be placed. The placement process is much like a medical residency match. The office must choose you, and you must indicate that you are interested in serving in that office (after an extensive week of interviews in Washington, DC).

I was most interested in working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It was the agency I was most familiar with, given my training. I was taught very specifically the process and methods for crafting a grant to match NIH guidelines and regulations, I had been on the campus, I knew people working at the NIH, and I knew those who worked there were trained in public health.

But, to my surprise, I interviewed in the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering at the National Science Foundation with a program entitled Smart and Connected Health. Read more of this post