Tweeting from scientific meetings

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Science blogger Andrew Maynard – who says he’s not a journalist but a “social media commentator” – posts some interesting thoughts in an article, “To tweet or not to tweet – social media and the scientific meeting.” Excerpt:

“Once upon a time, scientific conferences were predominantly about exchanging and examining new information with your peers – at least, they were in my field of research. Reporters just weren’t a part of the equation. Now, major conferences tend to be a media-fest – with the scientific community clamoring to have their messages and stories heard by all and sundry. There’s tremendous pressure to “sell” studies to the media – to work out what might appeal to a broad readership, then dress it up so it’s as attractive as possible. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the press releases and media coverage surrounding something like an American Chemical Society meeting.

As a result there is a tendency – at some conferences at least – for presentations to be less about peer to peer review and discussion, and more about broad dissemination and promotion. In this context, people want their work to be communicated in the media – but on their terms. In other words, they love the media when they feel they are on control, but get antsy if they feel that control slipping.”

How about tweeting from a meeting where non-peer-reviewed-data is being presented? Maynard writes:

If the aim of the meeting is to seriously assess and discuss someone’s unpublished research, I would hesitate to live tweet. I might blog – but only if it seemed appropriate given the state and significance of the research.

Journalists should be as transparent as this “social media commentator” is about how they’re going to use social media to cover health, medicine, science. Will there be different criteria? Different codes of ethics? Thanks to Maynard for his contribution to the discussion.

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