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Twitter for Scientific Meetings

Twitter is good for something. Really.

The true value of Twitter for practicing scientists comes from following the right people, individuals within and outside your field who often refer you to primary literature or reports that influence your way of thinking.

Over the last two years or so, I’ve found Twitter to have another use: following scientific meetings whether one is present or not.

In yesterday’s NCI Cancer Bulletin (31 May 2011), science journalist Edward Winstead wrote, Scientific Meetings through the Lens of Twitter, a detailed story on how attendees and followers from various backgrounds used Twitter to add value to the experience at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Orlando. I was delighted to be one of those interviewed for this story.

You can read it here but what I enjoyed most was having conversations about talks as they happened. With scientists more closely aligned with some of the work being presented, such as Columbia’s Brent Stockwell, the significance of the work became more apparent in real time. Also, misunderstandings or overinterpretations of data can be caught or at least questioned.

Other Twitter followers quoted therein include Johns Hopkins oncologist Dr. Robert Miller, MD Anderson oncologist Dr. Naoto T. Ueno, pharmaceutical consultant Dr. Sally Church, cancer survivor and freelance writer Jody Schoger, and NPR medical journalist and editor of their Shots health blogScott Hensley. Ted also spoke of a recent JAMA paper on Twitter use by a group led by Dr. Katherine Chretien, a physician at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, DC.

Rather than a distraction, I found that Twitter enhanced my meeting attendance. In addition, I was also able to catch some important posters while they were still up rather than lament missing it later at the bar when hearing a colleague talk about some great work.

Ted did a really fabulous job of summing up the value and shortcomings of Twitter at meetings, including a discussion of blogging and other social media policies that apply to specific meetings, such as this one from AACR. He also spoke of concerns about physicians tweeting about unsupported claims for medical products, an issue that may become more important at the upcoming American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.

But, you tell me: do you find Twitter to be of value at your scientific conferences?

By the way, you can follow the NCI Cancer Bulletin on Twitter here.

And me here.

3 Comments

  • Jun 1st 201111:06
    by sally

    Reply

    Nice posts from yourself and Ted, David.

    Personally, I find Twitter a brilliant resource at medical conferences.

    One of the joys is actually finally meeting people in real life whom you’ve interacted with on the internet for some time – I’ve yet to be disappointed in the fine folk on actually coming across them.

    Several times I have been in a session that was not quite what I thought it would be, only to check the tweetstream for the meeting hashtag and noticed Drs Wafik El Deiry or Anas Younes tweeting something more interesting :0)

    You can bet I bolted off to the other sessions in a hurry!

  • Jun 9th 201123:06
    by Carmen Drahl

    Reply

    Just back from the National Organic Symposium at Princeton (#NOS2011). I can’t say enough about how much Twitter enhanced my meeting experience. This experience is slightly different from AACR or ASCO- only three people made up the majority of the tweet stream. Twitter’s a supplement to my notes, it helps me get instant feedback and gauge what aspects of the meeting are of most interest to my followers. And it introduced me to some talented grad student tweeters- @OrganicExtract and @AlexFGoldberg!

  • Jun 11th 201121:06
    by David Kroll

    Reply

    Sally, it was also fabulous to meet you, too! I had known of your consulting business but I probably wouldn’t have known you as well if not for Twitter. Definitely a great tool at AACR, especially if you follow people whose commentary you respect.

    Carmen, it must have been wonderful to be back at your graduate alma mater! I totally agree that Twitter can also be an excellent notebook adjunct. Thanks for introducing me to @AlexFGoldberg and @OrganicExtract – great new follows!

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