Scientists on Social Media: The Third International Public Relations Workshop Held

December 2, 2015

Date of activity: November 26, 2015

The University of Tokyo Public Relations Office held its third international public relations workshop, Scientists on Social Media, on November 26th, 2015. The guest speaker was Dr. Heather Doran, a Public Engagement Project Officer at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Doran presented an overview of the University of Aberdeen's public relations activities, including Café Scientifique events, the University of Aberdeen's student-run Au Science Magazine, PechaKucha Night and Comedy Night. While emphasizing the importance of engaging the public in these kinds of fun and innovative ways, she also focused on how social media is an essential tool for reaching people and getting them interested in research.

She cited some recent studies about the use of social media in scientific circles, with results suggesting that approximately 50% of researchers were engaged in some way on social media services such as Twitter, Facebook LinkedIn and ResearchGate. Reasons for individual engagement on social media include enhanced exposure of one's research, potential for global collaborations, skills development, future employment opportunities, and access to funding and resources (such as crowdfunding). Dr. Doran also shared some anecdotes about how social media has helped further her research and the research of others. For instance, a conversation she had on Twitter led to her becoming a liveblogger at a conference in the US she had already planned on attending as a researcher, and the fact that she was going to be blogging about the event helped her to secure travel funding for the conference. Dr. Doran also talked about how crowdfunding helped a marine biologist gain exposure and financial resources to conduct her research.

In contrast with individual researchers, institutions (such as universities) primarily tend to disseminate information rather than engage in two-way communication with members of the public. She proposed that both institutions and individuals utilizing social media should (1) understand why they are using social media; (2) know their audience; (3) engage their audience rather than just disseminate information; and (4) experiment early on with various formats of social media to find what suits their purposes best.

The Workshop then was opened to questions from the attendees, who took part in lively discussions with Dr. Doran about such topics as getting people involved in running social media accounts, social media services popular in Asia like LINE and WeChat, how to engage the public using social media, how universities manage social media accounts, and tips on helping research stories go viral.

This event presented fresh opportunities for considering the role social media should have in universities and no doubt gave the attendees new ideas about how they could utilize social media.

  • Dr. Doran giving her presentation
    Dr. Doran giving her presentation
  • Attendees listening intently during the presentation
    Attendees listening intently during the presentation
  • An attendee speaking with Dr. Doran
    An attendee speaking with Dr. Doran
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