Some fallout from my social media talk

Written by: C. Titus Brown

Primary Source: Living in an Ivory Basement

I gave a talk yesterday at the 2013 BEACON Congress titled “How to build an enduring online research presence using social networking and open science.” The talk slides are here.

This talk was a combined survey of sites and personal perspective on how social media has helped shape the last 5 years of my professional life (as a tenure-track assistant professor) and why I think it’s a valuable approach for scientists to think about taking.

A few notes from discussions during and after the talk:

  • Quite a few people are looking for instructions and I only partially conveyed how nascent this area still is. Active online scientists are still unsure of basic questions about things like tweeting during conferences, blogging research prior to publications, and doing open review; we might have solid, mature thoughts on these issues in a few years. Until then, enjoy the Wild West, y’all!
  • A few people signed up for Twitter, and some were motivated to think about starting blogs — one particular woman told me she was interested in starting a blog not about her science, but about gender issues in science that she and a local support group had experienced.Neato.
  • A very prominent professor said that they’d enjoyed my talk very much and were thinking about how to begin blogging. !!
  • Someone who was privy to my reappointment conversation (why does this guy not have lots of papers? what is going wrong? what’s this blogging stuff?) engaged me in a long conversation that, I think, boiled down to me needing to make this clear: I am not planning to go up for promotion based on my klout score.That is, I think that some people are worried that I really will try to get tenure by arguing that my blogging and tweeting is super awesome and deserving of tenure.Nuh-uh. What I wanted to convey from my talk was that social media, online interaction, and open science feed into paper citations, grants, and reputation — the traditional measurements used for scientific promotion. And, inasmuch as I have any strategy, that is my strategy.

All in all, some interesting comments and positive responses.


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C. Titus Brown
C. Titus Brown is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. He earned his PhD ('06) in developmental molecular biology from the California Institute of Technology. Brown is director of the laboratory for Genomics, Evolution, and Development (GED) at Michigan State University. He is a member of the Python Software Foundation and an active contributor to the open source software community. His research interests include computational biology, bioinformatics, open source software development, and software engineering.