How to use twitter for academia

What is twitter useful for?

  1. Stay up to date with new research
  2. Find jobs, grant opportunities, academic meet-ups
  3. Network and become (more) visible
  4. Attend conferences virtually (check out the all-twitter brain conference  and of course in Twitter)
  5. Get access to paywalled papers (e.g. #canihaspdf)
  6. Find help & resources
  7. Get input from other scientists on data, stats, writing, etc.
  8. Teach the public, and learn from other twitter users

To learn more, watch the video from the live session where Nikola (nikola.me), Tommi  (mindsync.wordpress.com) and me talked about our personal experiences with academic twitter:

Here are some more practical tips on how to get the most out of twitter (what we couldn’t cover yesterday during the live session): 

    • Whom to follow?
      • Other scientists (and labs), journalists, funding bodies, science enthusiasts and communicators
      • See who your followers are following in turn, or whose content they retweet
      • Use public lists that others have created for specific topics. (Here’s a good one for CogNeuro people: https://twitter.com/neuroconscience/lists/cogneuro)
    • Keep your newsfeed manageable
      • Use services like TweetDeck (tweetdeck.twitter.com) – this allows you to split up your main feed into “sub-feeds” which are more manageable, based on topic or any other criterion you want.
      • Websites such as Buffer (buffer.com) and Hootsuite (hootsuite.com) will let you schedule tweets – you can make a queue of tweets which will then be posted automatically at (ir)regular intervals. This saves your time, and also benefits your followers who live in different time zones.
      • Turn off most if not all notifications! Social networks are built to be addictive – having your phone buzz every time someone tweets or replies to you will become very distracting once you start following more people. Making sure that you use Twitter at times that suit *you* is key.
      • Remember to weed your following list periodically – unfollow people you are no longer interested in, or add new people who you just met at conferences, etc.
    • Your public persona
      • It is generally a good idea to keep your personal and professional social media accounts separate, especially if you are an early career researcher.
      • If you want to keep your account professional, make a separate private account. Then you’ll have the flexibility to post about anything else you want, while not angering all the people who followed you for your science content.
    • How to tweet and content ideas
      • Sharing links – share why a news story, publication, video, or image captured your interest
      • Post short updates on your research; make these posts longer by using threads (almost like a blog post)
      • Start a dialogue or conversation by tagging other users, or using hashtags. Some good ones are: #phdchat #postdoc #ECRchat #scicomm #openscience
      • Do an online journal club – Twitter can be great to talk about new papers you’ve read, ask questions, etc.
      • Public AMAs (ask-me-anything sessions) – answer questions from the public about your work. One good example of this is @IAmSciComm, which has a new scientist host their account each week, and talk to thousands of science interested followers!
      • Live-tweet talks at conferences – you don’t need to take it too seriously, even a couple of bullet points per talk will contribute, and if more than one person does it it will create a nice public record of a conference. It is very common to get thank you messages from people for sharing info from conferences they couldn’t attend.

More practical tips can be found in a recent Cogtales post.

The problem with humanities and sciences not talking to each other

This post is written by me (F) and Charles Prusik (C):

F: In the latest session, I talked with Philosopher Dr Charles Prusik from Villanova University about the communication problem between humanities and the (social) sciences that results in critical knowledge gaps. While historically being close siblings, in the current race for publications and funding the humanities seem to think of the sciences and social sciences as evil step sisters, while the other two think of the humanities as having lost touch with reality. If you ever made even the smallest attempt to work interdisciplinary, you know what I am talking about.

The problem is that everybody is loosing in this game. We need each other and have to find a way to reconcile. The hard part about this is that academics (or really everybody) gets taught this disciplinary divide as a nature’s given. We already separate children in school depending on whether they are talented in STEM subjects, social subjects, or arts and languages. As this continues in higher and academic education, we end up with highly trained specialist that struggle to talk to people outside their discipline. They speak different languages and have fundamentally different views of the world.

Psychology and cognitive (neuro)science as a result suffer from lack of terminological clarity and well defined concepts. Moreover, we struggle to develop theories of cognition whose consequences are relevant outside our small disciplinary subdivision. 

C: Within the humanities, scholars tend to be rewarded by virtue of their contributions to increasingly narrow areas of specialization. This specialization, which is reinforced by the emphasis on publication records, results in humanities scholars being forced to retreat from interdisciplinary study. A substantive, historical, and empirical knowledge-base of the sciences has become a remote possibility for many scholars in philosophy, literature, and even the social sciences. As a response to this dynamic (at least in part),  humanities scholars have resorted to writing in highly specialized jargons and technical vocabularies, often without any attempt to clarify or explain the stakes of their claims for external disciplines.

The inability to communicate across disciplinary boundaries is reinforced, in my view, by the empirical social sciences as well, insofar as these disciplines have largely banished abstract, speculative, or conceptual forms of argumentation from their methodologies. This has resulted in a deeper chasm between the humanities and social sciences. A first step towards bridging the gap between the sciences and humanities would require scholars to recognize the constructed nature of the academic division of labor—disciplinary boundaries are not real, but they become realities through their institutional codification and reproduction. In addition to making contributions in their own specialized areas, scholars in the sciences and humanities should also make the effort to translate their findings and arguments into a discourse that is more directly accessible to non-specialists—even if the subject matter is simplified for purposes of clarity. Moreover, scholars from all disciplines should spend time creating networks and forums (e.g., digital humanities, social network platforms, open science), where interdisciplinary dialogue and research can occur.

Further readings:

http://championingscience.com/cant-scientists-communicate-outside-field-trained-way/

http://thewandereronline.com/why-science-needs-philosophy/

http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/why-science-badly-needs-philosophy

http://inters.org/jaspers-philosophy-existence

Academic side hustles

Today, I talked about academic side hustles. You can rewatch the session here (mini summary below):

Most side hustles are helpful for networking, developing and communicating your skills, and can generate a side income. You should only invest in side hustles which will help you achieve your goals or are fun. Keep in mind that these are usually voluntary activities which should in the first place benefit you and your career.

If you are very early in your career, I suggest you focus on fewer things. Most helpful side hustles for pre-doc researchers are reviewing (you can ask your supervisor to help you get experience or volunteer for conference abstract review), teaching (don’t overdo that, it is very time and energy consuming), as well as volunteer and science communication services (public outreach, valorization).

If you are at least halfway through your PhD and have finished one project from start to publication, you can also think about doing a side project (one is enough for the beginning). This can be a research project unrelated to your thesis work, supervising an undergrad or master’s thesis, or a collaboration with people outside your lab.

Towards the end of your PhD or in your first postdoc, your focus should be on networking and communicating your skills in order to increase your visibility and establish yourself in the research community. Good side hustles for this career stage are (co-)editing special issues, organizing lecture series or a symposium, online tutorials, external collaborations (the latter two go well with research tool development).

Once you are a more experienced postdoc, you should figure out what your ideal career path is and what skill set you need. This should define which side hustles to pick above everything else. You want a managing position but don’t have much experience? Get some students or RAs and volunteer for some committee you find interesting. You want an internationally established research lab? Get external collaborations (maybe through editing a special issue?) and good students to do some exciting extra projects. You want the security of a tenure or teaching position? Apply for a guest lectureship or volunteer to take over a course. You want to explore your market value outside academia? Time to get your website shiny and communicate your skills (maybe via a blog or online tutorials). You can also consider starting to freelance and rent out your skills to companies on the side (e.g. consulting, data analysis and data visualization, editorial services, research tool development (hardware and software)).

Not for everyone are admin and committee services. You should only volunteer for these if you want to learn about institute politics and management. Same goes for non-obligatory teaching.  If you don’t care about teaching, don’t want to learn it, and rather change career paths than doing it regularly, just don’t. Teaching is often treated as a central post of every academic position and it is not. If you would rather quit academia and do private sector research than teaching undergrads, don’t waste your time on this. Rather make sure that you do things which help you get around teaching in the future (e.g. research grants, industry interface research). Another thing which is only great if you enjoy it, is having a blog or online tutorial series (or a very active twitter account). If you don’t think this would be something for you, stick to a clean personal website and keep the rest of your online presence clear.

Actually making money on the side can be done by offering editorial services, teaching, consulting (e.g. a friend of mine is external adviser for a gaming company who value the input from a psychologist/neuroscientist), analyzing data or data visualization. Keep in mind that making money with this requires that you already have the skill set or are able to develop it fast. These can also be great opportunities to set a foot outside of academia and explore your market value.