My Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship about Science on Social Media

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This January I visited London for an interview. I was feeling nervous and excited and, as I usually handle challenging situations, I tweeted about it. People on twitter offered words of encouragement and support. Some of the people that tweeted I have met and know well, others I only know through twitter (and I don't even know their real name). With all of these people I have built relationships completely online and we have shared advice, interesting news stories and silly memes. The tweeting helped, I found at the end of February that I was successful. The twitter conversations I had just before the interview helped me get through the interview, and reinforced my feelings about why I was there.

The interview was for a project focusing on how science is shared via social media with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. The project is a Travel Fellowship and I'm going to be meeting with people across the USA, China and Japan to see how they are approaching science communication via online channels. The aims of the project are to meet, experience and learn how individual scientists and science communicators use social media and how research groups can communicate via social media as a whole, rather than as individuals (a challenge on certain networks such as twitter that are based around personalities and often informal conversations). I will be exploring personal stories, policies and strategies about engagement online.

I often share personal experiences when I speak to others and deliver training on how social media can be used to discuss research work and/or build professional networks. The stories I have are overwhelmingly positive. I used twitter as a support network throughout my PhD, I shared posts about my research work and received positive comments and I was invited to be an 'official blogger' for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at a major conference in San Diego where I was presenting my PhD research work. All of these elements helped me get my current job as a Public Engagement Project Officer but they also allowed be to build a wide academic research network at a very early stage of my career. I made a decision to leave research for Public Engagement based on a number of reasons but I have no-doubt that those activities would have supported me if I had continued to a post-doc role. While I travel I want to build and expand on my own experiences and explore personal stories about science communication online, both good and bad, with the aim of creating some case studies and explore some misconceptions, challenges and how different cultures approach social media.

I'm putting this blog post out there to let people know more about my project, but also as a signpost for new contacts and collaborations. My plan is to be in the USA in June and I will travel to MIT, Yale, Washington, Toronto and Seattle.

Social media is arguably making the world a smaller place, but I am taking the time to travelling to people so I can see how social media integrates into their lives, rather than just seeing the outputs on social media. i will also immerse myself in the different cultures and environments. As part of the fellowship I will also be looking at how training is delivered to researchers and communicators about social media use.  

Of course, I will be blogging about my experiences here but I am also open to guest posts and I am considering blogging about my project via a network. I'm still at the planning stage so any input from others would be appreciated.  

I am incredibly excited about this opportunity. I am still forming my plan and I expect it to evolve. I want to open up an invitation to others to get in contact with me as I am very keen to chat with others.

Even if we can't meet up. There's always Skype.

I also wanted to use this post as an opportunity to thank those that have supported me, commented on posts, shared posts and just been responsive online. I do not think I would have completed my PhD without the support networks on twitter. I wanted to call out, Lou Woodley (and her awesome blog about communities and academia online), Sci Curious (and her awesome blog), Biochem- belle (and her awesome blog), Neil Denny (a previous Churchill Fellow and creator of the Little Atoms podcast), EVERYONE at ASBMB, the incredible resource created by the Thesis Whisperer and last but not least, Dr James D Moffatt for his weekly BEER HORN call and for once sending me biscuits in the post when I was in the middle of writing my thesis.


  1. If you find yourself in Virginia, please let me know. Would love to learn more about this project!

    1. Thanks for the comment. I don't think I will reach Virginia, but happy (and looking) to connect with people via skype. Please send me your contact details through the comment box on my page and I can get in touch with you. :)

  2. Really great to read about how social media has been helpful to you and your career, because I still think it's viewed by some people as a 'waste of time' because you should be writing/reading/collecting data instead. I'm only just starting out on my PhD journey and am taking the time now to forge some networks on Twitter, through blogs etc., because I think it will be helpful in the future and I certainly have more time now than I will a bit further down the line!! Sounds like you have some exciting times ahead, good luck with it all! From your newest reader!

    1. Thank you for the comment. Best of luck! I hope you share your learning as you go too :)


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