Happy New Year to everyone. Mine was actually spent not in the happiest way, listening to the revelry whilst desperately seeking sleep within the confines of a completely not soundproof tent in Kaikoura. Struck down with a nasty gastro bug for two days, just in time for the last eve of the year.*
However, the final week before Christmas was spent far more actively- curator of a Twitter account @Biotweeps for the week. @Biotweeps is one of a number of #rocur or #RotationCuration twitter sites. These rocur sites have a different person in charge or curating them each week. For @Biotweeps it’s a different biologist from around the world every week. Others include @Astrotweeps (a different astronomer or planetary scientist each week) and the even more high profile New Zealand/Australian initiative @realscientists (any type of science).
I’m a big advocate of the benefits of Twitter for both sharing and gathering information and for interacting with others for science communication purposes. Previous posts on Twitter can be found here and here.
What can be covered on a science rocur site? Pretty much anything vaguely related to science and/or life as a scientist as long as it’s not offensive. Curators incorporate what else is going on their week which may include meetings, conferences, or field work and of course the non work time as well.
In my week I covered a broad range of topics from an introduction to myself to my research interests over my career. This included evolution of the major blood protein albumin through to thermal adaptation of fish, and impacts of climate change, ocean acidification and pollution. Along the way I also described what we know about the basic biology of my target animals- which include tuatara, eels, salmon and Antarctic fish and shellfish. And I also let Twitter followers into a lot more about the magic of Antarctica.
I also spent time looking at other aspects of life as a scientist- grappling with impingements to academic freedom, what’s involved in biosafety and cataloguing samples and the pitfalls and reality of a science or academic career. Much tweeting was dedicated to the importance of effective science communication (scicomm), and something that is very important to me: women in science. I finished the week with two lists that I compiled with a little help from tweep followers- the top 10 science stories of 2014 as well as the top 10 science ‘fails’ of 2014.
Rather than just reading my overview- you can relive the whole week at the Storify of my curation here.
Why Rotation Curation for Scientists?
It was an intensive week as a curator- keeping tweets going all day and responding to people’s questions or comments is busy stuff. Planning topics for each day of the week is a good idea and having photos and links ready on hand to support them helps. Also allowing flexibility is important. Something that comes up in your week may suddenly be a new topic for discussion. Something that a tweep follower raises may also create a new topic too- remember this is two-way engagement.
Even though it was an full-on week, from my perspective rocur is a really useful, beneficial experience. For those of us pretty devoted to scicomm, this is another, quite different format that can expand our skillset and provides another platform for our views. The succinctness of tweets means thinking hard about what you write. It’s a chance to get your opinions out there- be bold. Seldom do we get this kind of direct opportunity.
It’s great for consolidating ideas on topics, that may then be useful for writing a research paper, a grant funding application, a public talk or a blog post, especially as in a rocur position you’re gaining feedback and input from a wide variety of people.
I would like to think that organisations would get behind those that have been accepted for a rocur week and both promote and support them as contributing to their organisation, recognising the extra hours and skills involved. How we disseminate information is rapidly changing. Science is most definitely no longer only about publishing papers.
Why Science RoCur sites for the Public?
These sites are amazing- there are such a diversity of scientists on them from all around the world and what they say is incredibly interesting during their curation weeks. It’s a fantastic way to learn more about science and even for me as a scientist to learn about all sorts of topics that I know little about. Each curator has their own style, their own opinions- they are all unique.
If following several 100 tweets or more for a week sounds daunting the great thing about Twitter is that you can dip in or out as time or inclination allows. Check out what a rocur site is talking about at that moment and then decide do you want to follow this particular conversation or check in again later?
Why Science RoCur sites for Journalists/Media?
I think these rocur sites offer an information treasure trove relating to science for media. If you’re a journalist etc and not already, check out the curator each week on these sites. There may be angles from what they say that can then be used as part of a story or better still profile the scientist or their work to help get more science out there. A more scientifically literate society is a benefit.
Overall, there’s benefits of Rotation Curation on Twitter for science curators, for the public and for more traditional media/journalists. The way we receive and present information is rapidly changing and rocur is just one newish and fun way in which to become a lot more informed via direct contact with scientists.
My week on Biotweeps: https://storify.com/Biotweeps/151214-victoriametcalf
You can find me on Twitter at @VicMetcalf_NZ.
*Infectious Thoughts may have some ideas on why I’ve spent 3 of the last 10 New Year’s Eves with gastro bugs when I very rarely get them other times.