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Margin Notes

Twitter for scientists

"Sciencefeed" is a new micro-blogging service just for scientists -- a great idea that should be replicated.


Despite my initial misgivings with Twitter when I began using it last year, I’ve become a big fan of this micro-blogging utility. The fact that I’m even using the words “micro-blogging utility” in a sentence would have been surprising to me a year ago. (My most recent “tweets” can be seen in the righthand side of this page, if you scroll down just a bit.)

I use Twitter mainly for information gathering and, through it, have come across many interesting story leads and sources. Others use it for basic back-and-forth communication, although I don’t find it quite as useful for that purpose.

Many mix personal and professional communications on their Twitter accounts, and I find that somewhat annoying. Sorry, but I’m not that interested in the personal stuff, so I really wish these individuals would create two separate accounts, one for personal use, the other for professional purposes.

This brings me to an interesting news story I saw recently in the online University World News. Apparently a group of academics have created “Sciencefeed,” which the article describes as a “scientific version of [the] popular social-networking site Twitter.”

The article continues:

The aim is to speed up international scientific debate, with rapid-fire exchanges of thought between informed academics. Where Twitter users may comment on the latest fashions or habits of their dog, Sciencefeed users are supposed to blog about cutting edge research discoveries.

Sciencefeed apparently will be compatible with other social media platforms, so users can share their posts with their contacts and friends on Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed and other similar services without having to log-off from Sciencefeed.

It’s a great idea, and one I think could be replicated. I’d love to see a Twitter “feed” related primarily to postsecondary education in Canada, as well as one devoted primarily to science policy. Yes, I know you can create something of the sort by actively following certain hashtags, but that is a bit of a hit-and-miss proposition, and still requires a lot of sifting of the wheat from the chaff.

I’m really not very “techie,” so perhaps something like this already exits. If anyone has suggestions or knows of an easy way to create such information channels, I’d be eager to hear from you.

Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is the editor of University Affairs.
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  1. Nick Taylor-Vaisey / February 23, 2010 at 12:29

    Your post about Twitter got me thinking. You mentioned that some people mix personal and professional, and I realized that I do. Now, I stay away from the “I’m standing in line” and the “LOL what a crazy morning” and the “I’m having a bad day” tweets…

    But I started thinking: Why do I make inane tweets like “BREAKING: Richard Branson watches speed skating”?

    And I think the answer is that it sort of humanizes the feed. So long as it’s done in moderation, I think my followers can expect to see lots of links to important things and perhaps some insight. But then sometimes, they’ll see something inane that might make them chuckle.

  2. Mr. Gunn / March 2, 2010 at 17:50

    I’m not sure “Twitter for Scientists” will be any more successful than the myriad failed attempts at “Facebook for Scientists”, but there’s clearly a desire for something that supports some of the special needs of scientists and academics.

    See relevant discussions here:

  3. Tara Fraser - UA Web Editor / March 5, 2010 at 15:14

    There is also, which is an online forum for research scientists. You can join different groups organized by expertise or interests, and share your views, ideas and advice with others. Most of the schools represented on it are in the U.S., but that shouldn’t stop Canadians from joining the discussions.

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