Best Social Platforms for Scientific Networking in Lockdown
With Universities and Institutes being forced to close their doors, scientists across the globe have been encouraged to conduct their work from home during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown. Even though online platforms (such as Zoom) have enabled scientific meetings to continue in a work-from-home manner, there remain clear challenges for the important professional networking once offered by attending academic conferences.
In a recent self-survey undertaken by Nature, a total 61% of over 7,600 post-doctoral respondents reported that they had felt a negative impact of the SARS CoV-2 pandemic upon their research career prospects. Unsurprisingly, 80% of those surveyed reported an impaired ability to conduct experiments and collect data, thanks to lockdown and social distancing measures. Clearly, in such times of uncertainty, cultivating rich and fruitful scientific networks is more important than ever when it comes to securing and maintaining an academic position; however, with an embargo on international (and in certain areas, regional) travel, many early-career researchers still face challenges in presenting their ideas to the scientific community and making their work known.
Though COVID-19 has certainly affected the way we network, all is not lost when it comes to maintaining key professional connections and establishing new academic relationships. Whether you are looking to remain within, or transition out of scientific research, social media has become an increasingly important marketplace with which to share your skills, ideas and explore potential career opportunities. Increasingly, scientists of all disciplines are taking to social media in order to connect and collaborate, with industry partners doing the same. However, despite much of the modern workforce being social media savvy, knowing which social platform to use can be a challenge. Here are 5 social platforms you can use to continue scientific networking during lockdown, whatever stage you’re at in your academic career.
If you’re an established scientist you’re probably already on ResearchGate. The power of the ResearchGate platform really is held by the more experienced academics and prolific publishers (if they regularly keep their profiles updated). This is thanks to the ‘ResearchGate Score’; a function which tracks the number of publications and expert interactions uploaded by each user. ResearchGate can be a difficult niche to break into if you’re in the earlier stages of your career, nonetheless it remains an extremely useful platform for locating relevant papers, asking questions and finding answers. On ResearchGate, you can ask technical questions about your lab work and get real feedback from the global scientific community, despite social distance from your benchwork colleagues.
Many know Mendeley as a useful reference management tool, though few realise that it also has social networking functions. Boasting over 6 million users worldwide, Mendeley certainly is a player in the academic social networking space; however, its similarity to ResearchGate means you probably will favour one or the other. The real benefit of Mendeley is its dual functionality as a both a networking and citation manager; you can keep everything in one place on your own personal device when you might be socially distanced from your workplace computer.
If you’ve heard it said that LinkedIn isn’t really for science, then you’ve been misinformed. As academics, we are increasingly under pressure to finding industry networks, science communication and non-academic career opportunities - LinkedIn is the perfect place for all of these. Whilst it is true that many of the people you connect with on LinkedIn will be working outside of scientific research,, there’s certainly no harm in using the platform to share your papers. In addition, you can also share more accessible articles and opinion pieces to suit your LinkedIn audience - after all, there’s much more time to develop your lay-terms writing skills in Lockdown and this might foster opportunities for the future.
Scientistt is definitely the most ‘up and coming’ scientific networking platform on this list. Born during the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020), Scientistt certainly plays to its strengths by integrating an informal, friendly approach with professional and intellectual discussion, podcasts, blog posts and infographics.Though the platform is relatively new, the founders are already working closely with companies that are actively recruiting PhD students and post-docs, a useful careers spin which favours the younger researcher. Scientistt could easily become the favourite academic networking platform of the near future, thanks to its modern, multimedia approach to networking.
In the case of this list, we’ve saved the best until last; Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to professional networking with both like minded scientists, policymakers, journalists and the general public. A large academic community already exists on Twitter, therefore it remains a great place to find like minded researchers. With a little knowledge of hashtags and handles, you can quickly build a significant, sizable network - perfect for sharing both technical and topical ideas. To get the most out of scientific networking on Twitter: follow academics in your field that you want to work with, don’t be shy to initiate conversations using the like, retweet, or reply feature as this is a great way to get on someone’s intellectual radar.
Social media networking has been a career lifeline for many scientists working from home throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, and with the global pandemic ongoing that is not set to change soon. Whilst almost any social platform can be repurposed for academic intent, it’s perhaps these 5 social platforms which are most synonymous with STEM professional success. A large scientific community exists online, spread across these 5 platforms and waiting to be explored from your home office or workbench. By tapping into this living online resource, it’s possible to maintain and establish new career connections, or perhaps even form socially distanced friendships during this difficult and isolating time.
If you feel your work has been affected by the social distancing measures of the COVID-19 lockdown, check out The Life Scientists’ Guide To Working Remotely, for tips and advice.
Sophie has recently submitted her PhD thesis to the Quadrum Institute, Norwich, UK and is a passionate science writer and communicator. She is a member of The Nutrition Society and the Biochemical Society.
You can connect with Sophie online in the following places:
- Instagram: @theinfraredrum
- Twitter: @infraredrum
- On her blog: theinfraredrum.wordpress.com
- YouTube channel: InfraRedRum
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