Viputheshwar Sitaraman
Founder, Blogger
Draw Science.

For some reason, it seems scientists feel they’re too good for social media. Apparently, the traditional dogmatic, restricted, and expensive dissemination of research via academic journals is far superior to the hyper-efficient, rapid, and completely free spread of knowledge via social media. Apparently, burying a new research article amongst hundreds of issues of one among thousands of journals in one among millions of scientific fields generates more attention than broadcasting it right to the smartphones, tablets and computers of millions of interested viewers. Apparently, half-heartedly lecturing a half-empty, half-asleep classroom at a university is more fulfilling than the +1's and likes of countless people worldwide who truly share the same passion for science. Dogma in science: case in point

Why don’t scientists use
social media?

Before I continue, I must clarify that I do not presume that all scientists don’t use social media. Some use it extensively and effectively to diffuse their ideas. However, the great majority don’t. Most believe either (a) they don't have the time for social media or (b) that social media isn't meant for science communication. Neither of these excuses check out, and here’s why:

Social media is the future of all
communication—including science.

The Internet was promised to be a hub of information, but the laws of entropy and the sheer force of human creativity soon transformed it into a disorganized cloud of senseless bytes. In the middle of all the information, it was impossible to distinguish the good from the bad. That’s where social media came in. Social media turned the Internet from an anarchy into a democracy, giving people the ability to like, follow, subscribe, +1, retweet, favorite, etc. the most useful and interesting media, allowing popular vote to determine what dominated the Internet.

Social media isn’t entertainment,
it’s a highly precise tool.

Accordingly, social media isn’t strictly for self-centered teenagers taking “selfies.” It’s for all kinds of selfies: bathroom selfies and presidential selfies, cute outfit selfies and Oscar selfies, selfie-stick selfies and even (gasp) lab selfies. Yes, lab selfies.

Today, I want to initiate a new tradition: #labselfie. To most scientists this will be shocking even scandalous trend: bringing the filth of popular culture into the sterile and pristine laboratory setting. Nevertheless, the lab selfie is a deceivingly simple, but promisingly effective solution to the communication gap between science and society. 

We scientists tend to cocoon ourselves in little niches of research. In many senses, we’re much like the Amazonian tribe that just made contact with the outside world. We speak a language that seems totally foreign, play with suspicious chemicals, wear odd and showy garments, and often live almost completely separate from the rest of society. Today, our tribe meets the rest of the world. Instead of speaking our jargon-filled language, we will use the universal mode of communication: the hashtag. 

By simplifying science, we
can bring science to the world.

The numbers tell the story: lab selfies will probably get you far more attention than anything you’ve published so far. A research paper might garner around 1 million views. A Facebook post can easily top 500 million views (Bik and Goldstein, 2013). In the light of the rise of crowdfunded research, this statistic is even more relevant.

The time has come to move science to social media. Let’s bring innovation to the public. To kick it off, here’s my first #labselfie:

Got an idea? Tell me.



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