I have recently read the 2014 Nature paper on which social media do scientists use and why do they use it. In the meantime a lot has changed, ResearchGate no longer has 4.5 million users, but 8 million. That does not seem much compared to 1.5 billion users Facebook has, but is still a remarkable number considering that only scientists use it.
In a survey in which 3000 scientists and engineers gave their opinion about the awareness of various social networks, just under half said that they visit ResearchGate regularly. First was Google Scholar with more than 60% of regular visits. Third came LinkedIn, followed by Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Scientists use ResearchGate and LinkedIn in case they are contacted, to track metrics, discover recommended papers, post content and share links to the authored content. LinkedIn is also popular for job search while Twitter is very popular to follow discussions and comment on them, which is somewhat less popular on other social media. Scientists do not use Facebook professionally.
Shouldn’t scientists love discussions?
I was actually surprised that scientific discussions are not playing a more important role in social media activity. There are many “Likes”, “Dislikes”, “Upvotes” and other emoticons, but there is little of real exchange of opinion (with exception of dedicated forums). I believe the reluctance of being exposed plays a major role. Fear of saying stupid thing, fear of insulting someone and a simple lack of time are not to be neglected as well.
Publish. Upload. No response.
Or close to none. When you publish your scientific paper, you should proudly share it with world. It is not nearly enough that you upload it to your profile on one social media. You should get through the entire sales process and present it to the peers that work in the same field.
Out of my curiosity as an ex-researcher and a Splice Editor I have decided to see how my latest research article would do on social media. First, I have written a 500 words-long article for Splice that everyone is able to understand. Then I have posted it on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I was happy to see that many people liked and shared my article on Twitter and Facebook, but I got really nice engagement on ResearchGate and LinkedIn. For example, I have focused on a specific LinkedIn group that suits the article topic and in the past week, close to 40 people liked the article. I also offered to send the PDF and I got almost 20 request instantly. Again, I was hoping for some discussion, but I guess we still need some time to get there.
Put a cherry on a top
Scientists need citations for various reasons. By actively promoting it and engaging target groups in the discussion, your articles are more likely to get cited. Hence, you are more likely to get projects, establish new collaborations and build your scientific reputation. Imagine how much time have you invested in the research and paper preparation. There is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t invest and extra 8 hours to put a cherry on the top of your efforts. So promote your research on social media and blogs. It works!
Jana Erjavec, PhD