Call For Social Media Success Stories in Academia

"Do you know the way to San Jose?" (with apologies to Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, and Hal Davis, 1968)

We're packing up the world headquarters of Terra Sigillata this afternoon and high-tailing it out to San Jose, California, for the annual meeting of SACNAS - the Society Dedicated to Advancing Hispanics, Chicanos, and Native Americans in Science. It's a tremendous organization comprised of several of my former students and faculty colleagues from over the years and I'm ecstatic about reconnecting with them. With the initiative of my colleagues - Alberto Roca of and Danielle Lee of The Urban Scientist at Scientific American blogs (plus a whole host of online activities) - we pitched and were accepted to present a session on Blogging, Tweeting, & Writing: How an Online Presence Can Impact Science and Your Career. I'll be discussing how a responsible, online presence on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook can enhance networking opportunities for graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. Specifically, I'll introduce how I've increased the exposure of my students who are RISE Scholars at North Carolina Central University. In this NIGMS-funded grant, I've been helping my students capture their research experiences in their own words (with previous review by their P.I.'s of course, to prevent accidental disclosure of unpublished data). The students have been surprised by the level of engagement and support they've received in the comments from scientists all around the world. But I know of many other students who use blogs and Twitter to engage with the scientific community in ways that brings them positive recognition outside of their academic and laboratory work. To better prepare for this session, I'd like to gather some advice from you, Dear Reader: Who are some of students, trainees, and junior faculty, who best exemplify the use of social media for career advancement? Are you a student who has had Good Things happen to you because of your social media activities? How did that transpire? If you have any responses, please drop a link in the comments with a brief explanation - or longer if you'd like! And also feel free to recommend the sites and stories of others. I'll be sure to promote your responses in tomorrow's talk and direct attendees to this post for future reference. The three of us thank you so much in advance for your suggestions!

Author: David Kroll

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  1. Kate Clancy is my blogging hero. She’s one of the best I know in her ability to “converse” with her audience – not just about her field but about HER science. I find myself shying away from talking a lot about MY research. I wish I knew how to do a better job of it. But, Kate is a natural and one of my faves!

  2. Thank you for initiating this. In addition to the Kate Clancy recommendation, which I heartily second, there are some great anthropology blogs that not only present research but reflect on the blogging process. With apologies for omitting others, here is a selection:

    Ryan Anderson at ethnografix:
    John Hawks:
    Greg Downey and Daniel Lende at Neuroanthropology:
    Rosemary Joyce at Psychology Today:

  3. Hi David —
    Didn’t realize until I got to the bottom that Jason had already mentioned Daniel and me, but Neuroanthropology probably helped speed a proposal for an edited volume through a major academic press (and it will be launched in less than a year). In addition, we organize a conference in 2009 and are — right now as I write this — in California to serve on an advisory board because of the visibility created by our weblog.

    I’ve been contacted by a number of the people I’ve written about, including some scholars and remarkable individuals who have left me pretty over awed. I’ve appeared on a series about human sexuality on the Australian network SBS and been interviewed on national radio a couple of times, all because of my blogging (I’d be invisible if I relied entirely on my purely academic writing). And there’s still more plans in the works to leverage science blogging online into bigger opportunities.

    Over at Neuroanthropology, I’ve been calling for concerted efforts among anthropology bloggers to help each OTHER to get promotion and tenure, cooperating to make visible the impact that our online writing has. The numbers of readers dwarf anything my academic work is likely to get — or, I should amend that, anything my academic writing was likely to get BEFORE I blogged. But I plan to use my blogging to open up and connect to my academic work.

  4. I don’t know if it is a success story (yet) but I feel that I have benefited greatly as a newly-appointed faculty member from social media. Blogs from folks like Isis, Drugmonkey, DrDrA, Physioprof, Prof-Like Substance et al. are really helpful when you are learning to navigate the tenure-track. The advice and support I get from these blogs (and the twitterati) have certainly helped me as I struggled with the various demands of starting up an academic lab. When I get tenure, the help and support I have gotten from this community will have played no small part. In addition to important insight into lab management, grantsmanship, etc., these activities have also led to me meeting folks that I might not have otherwise. At least one of these interactions has initiated a collaborative project that I am really excited about.

    (you have most of these folks in your blog roll, so I didn’t put the links in).

  5. I actually have a job in sci comms lined up for after I defend my phd thanks to blogging and engaging on twitter over the last year. It’s been incredibly valuable, and I am continually connecting with really wonderful and interesting people! Good luck with the talk 🙂

  6. It’s a pretty well-known story (moreso in medical social media circles), but I think a great example of blogging, etc. opening up opportunities for a student is Bertalan Mesko. Berci was a medical student in Hungary who planned to seek a PhD after med school. He started a blog in English ( and on Twitter (@Berci) and ended up being interviewed on Medscape, invited to speak at Yale’s medical school in the US, at SciFoo at the GooglePlex, etc. His blog was featured in Nature Medicine and plenty of other places. These events obviously opened up a lot of doors for him professionally. He has since graduated from med school and is now working on his PhD.

  7. I’m a post-doc at UTSW in organic synthesis. I decided to start a total synthesis twitter feed (@total_synthesis) keeping people informed of published synthesis in the leading journals. I thought that it was a good use of Twitter and that more people can follow with different topics. I have now over 200 followers and I would say it’s working so far. I think there is definitely a place for Social media to better enhance and inform science communications specially across different countries.