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Scientists turning to social media to share news

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2 2013 6:59 p.m. MST

Scientists are increasingly harnessing the broad reach of social media like Twitter and YouTube to disseminate positive, upbeat information about their work.

“To put it in 140 characters or less, social media and science found each other in 2012,” Mary Ann Giordano wrote for the New York Times in Tuesday’s newspaper. “In surprising numbers, people posted, viewed and searched for science-related topics last year — sharing news from space and undersea, commenting on new discoveries and uploading photos and video in a full-out embrace of the ability to communicate with thousands of others about global subjects in real time.”

When Twitter compiled its list of “moments of serendipity and just plain awesomeness” that occurred during 2012, science-based tweets figured prominently in the mix — including NASA’s updates about the Mars rover Curiosity and the National Zoo live-tweeting the artificial insemination of a 13-year-old giant panda.

The scientific community is catalyzing science’s expanded social-media presence by educating scientists about the virtues of social media. For example, during September the science employment website Nature Jobs published a blog post extolling social media (“A vast number of scientists are using social media for tremendous gains … why not join them?”), and science writer Christie Wilcox penned a piece for Scientific American with the headline “Social media for scientists: it’s our job.”

“It may seem of little consequence whether scientists are using social media,” Wilcox wrote. “That certainly seems to be the attitude of many scientists. … But social media platforms aren’t just digital water coolers. They are the way the world is networking and communicating. They are how and where we share information — with friends, colleagues, acquaintances and any and everyone else.”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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