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Connecting scientists and the public in online dialogues about science

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My Churchill Trust Travel Fellowship Report, Connecting scientists and the public in online dialogues about science has now been published.

Social media offers much promise for the engagement of new global audiences. This report summarises my journey to the USA, Canada, China and Japan and includes useful observations, tips and case studies for those looking to connect the public with science via online platforms. In theory, social media has the potential to break down barriers and open channels of communication between people of every background and profession on a global scale. Online networks also have a huge potential to democratise many areas, especially academic scientific research. It can allow the public access behind previously closed doors and into restricted spaces through the use of video and images. Importantly, it offers and the opportunity for two-way conversations with global audiences no matter where the research is being conducted.

I travelled to the USA, Canada, Ch…

Are doctoral candidates switched on to the impact of social media?

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Early in 2015 I conducted a bit of research about social media use at my institution (the University of Aberdeen). It was presented at the UK Council for Graduate Education, 2nd International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education & Training Conference in 2015.

I wrote up the findings and they were recently published in the proceedings. There are interesting papers covering all different areas of graduate training. The abstract for my paper is below and you can download the proceedings (my paper is on page 93).




Are doctoral candidates switched on to the impact of social media? 

Dr Heather Doran* and Dr Kenneth D. Skeldon *Corresponding author, University of Aberdeen, King’s College, Regent Walk, Old Aberdeen, AB24 3FX

Abstract
It might be assumed that today’s doctoral students are aware of and active in the use of social media tools in the course of their work. Here we question whether doctoral students are really utilising these tools to effectively and responsibly stren…

No-one to book that trip with? Do it anyway. Traveling alone as a female is OK

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Last year I was lucky enough to start a journey of exploration around the world funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. It was an incredible experience but also a little daunting, as I would be doing it alone. I’m writing this about my experiences to encourage others to take the plunge and book that trip you have always wanted to take. Traveling has been a favourite way of spending my time for as long as I can remember. It isn’t just about the destination for me: the journey to get there is just as important. I love the space you get from reality as you embark on a journey. I don’t love everything though. I hate flying, but I didn’t want to let that stop me. If I had a choice, the train would always be the top of my list of transport options. Staring out of the window of a train has been the location where I have decided on many things in my life. Traveling alone can be a daunting experience but I really urge everyone to try it. Even if it is a train journey to a new town. You…

My 2015 Reading List

As many people are looking for presents at this time of year I thought I would round up some of my favourite books that I read in 2015 (along with a few other favourites).

My plan was to write full reviews of all of these books but somehow it is the end of the year and I never quite managed it. This year has gone by so quickly.

If you have any suggestions of your own please add them below. I am looking for a few new reads over the holidays

So You've been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson
I really enjoyed this book and the follow ups Jon has done with people who have become well known for all the wrong reasons due to exploits, mishaps and misinterpretations on social media. It starts to think about how and why people behave like they do online and it could go into a little more depth but is a great read to make you think about how mob mentality, anonymity and online behaviour in general can be a powerful tool but also a dangerous force.
How to Thrive in the Digital Age, Nick Harkaway 
A g…

PechaKucha, Androids and Line: Science Communication in Japan

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The last week of my Churchill Fellowship was spent in Tokyo, Japan. I learnt an immense amount about Japan, it's attitudes to science, engagement initiatives and its use of social media ... did you know Japan has a social network called Line? No, me neither... My short trip also included a PechaKucha presentation, a debate about whether we could love robots and a meeting with the ultimate in robots, ASIMO.

Tokyo was incredible. I completely fell in love with its chaos, speed and the people.

During my week I went along to the PechaKucha nights and spoke about my Fellowship and my journey in science communication. You can watch it below. If you don't know what PechaKucha is, you have 20 images and 20 seconds to talk about each one. It's a challenge but great fun.



The night was really enjoyable and there was about 250 people there. I really enjoy running the PechaKucha nights in Aberdeen so it was fantastic to meet with the founders and organisers of the nights. It's ama…

Science, China and why we should all take notice of WeChat.

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I spent last week in Shanghai exploring the use of social media to communicate science as part of my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship.

I had an extremely busy week and was lucky enough to meet with researchers in science communication, representatives from Nature and the Royal Society of Chemistry in Shanghai. Who all gave me extremely valuable insights into science communication and social media in China.



The majority of my time was spent at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which is a well established institution in China. I visited researcher Dr Yi Mou who has written a number of papers about the use of social media for health messaging and its uptake by academics on a professional basis in China.

Yi Mou also translated some interesting findings from science communication surveys in China that have been conducted over the past number of years.



I was incredibly lucky to meet with a group of people who were so accommodating. China is an interesting place and I was a little a…

Social media networks are becoming more like real life, not less

This week there's been a higher than normal amount of discussion around to the topic of 'the death of social media', well, there has been on my social media networks. And that links to what I want to talk about in this post.

The Atlantic published a piece yesterday on 'The Decay of Twitter' which followed the announcement that Twitter was running at a financial loss. Today, Essena O'Neill announced that she is quitting Instagram because social media 'isn't real life'.  I've found the discussions around both of these really interesting but many discussions about social media often assume a couple of points that I think should be thought about further and these haven't really been addressed in commentary that I have seen.

1) Everyone should be using the same social network

Obviously for a social network to be a social network it needs users and for business (like Twitter) additional users is a sign that they are doing well. But as a user of a …