#SeriousAcademic has a middle ground. Embrace it.

Being a #SeriousAcademic does mean you can enjoy, use and gain from social media. But a #SeriousAcademic also questions the limits and utility of social media, and how bias and influence can muddy the waters of academic communication.

Twitter showed its A-game today. In response to a Guardian article entitled I’m a serious academic, not a professional Instagrammer detailing one academics reluctance towards social media, those slightly less reluctant went to town.

Researchers more open to sharing on social media also rallied around a response by @garwboy for his response.

The chasm between the articles highlights a gap that’s always existed in academia. Between those academics content to produce their research, and those that like to shout about it theirs, and others. But social media is different.

As @Garwboy highlights, social media is a chance for less-confident academics to talk about their research, and to talk about their research in a place that may mean new people see it. Sharing research on twitter offers a chance for more people to comment, more people to express ideas, and for researchers to develop their thinking beyond what they’ve considered previously.

One of the reasons politicos love twitter so much is that leading political acaemics like Rob Ford (England), @goodwinmj, @proftimbale or @jdportes are so vocal on it. It’s a place to find another layer of thinking, or academic content without having to find, read or pay for an academic paper. The same can be said for scientists like @adamrutherford or @fryrsquared. More people have the opportunity to access the often opaque academic research.

But those ridiculing #SeriousAcademic should be careful not to overstate social media. As the political left has found to it’s detriment Twitter is an echo chamber. By selecting who you want to follow, it means speaking to the same people on repeat, and listening to the same ideas. It becomes very easy to get stuck in a cycle of group think and confirmation bias.

Social media should be complimentary to other strategies to talk about science and research. It should be a starting point for those who don’t want to speak to the media or politicians. But researchers should also be given support in it’s use. Whilst it can be a friendly echo, it can also expose academics to trolling and unwarranted criticism, something that could put off young and nervous academics from talking more widely about their work.

Academia also needs to seriously consider how it goes about releasing preliminary findings on social media. Open data is good data, but untested early findings could get misinterpreted by the public or media.

Being a #SeriousAcademic does mean you can enjoy, use and gain from social media. But a #SeriousAcademic also questions the limits and utility of social media, and how bias and influence can muddy the waters of academic communication.

Like what you read? Give Sam Alvis a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.