Scientists jump on the social media bandwagon

ScienceAlert helps brings science to society through social media

A science website will use a $200,000 grant from the federal government to use social media to promote science to up to 250,000 young Australians.

The ScienceAlert website will utilise Facebook and Twitter to expand its social media network over the next three years through partnerships with ABC Online, the Australian Science Teachers Association, James Cook University and the Queensland state government.

“Social media [is] a part of the daily lives of most young Australians nowadays – and science has to move with the times and heed social trends if it wants to make a difference. That’s why we’re putting it on social media,” said Chris Cassella, ScienceAlert managing director and former Microsoft programmer, in a statement.

ScienceAlert currently features information on the outcomes of science research from Australian universities and research institutions for the public, including articles and opinion-pieces. It also features a job board for science jobs and currently has 1.3 million ‘fans' around the world on Facebook.

The website will expand to include science news to national and regional television and radio around Australia and news about science and technology university courses, scholarships and work opportunities.

“We’ll also help widen awareness of the work of other science communication projects supported by Inspiring Australia,” Cassella said.

Inspiring Australia is a national government initiative which aims to build relationships between science and society.

Julian Cribb, who founded ScienceAlert to share information about Australian science with the rest of the country and world, said while a conservative approach to social media has traditionally been taken by scientific organisations, it has been proven to be an effective and low-cost way to connect with people about their work and the opportunities it offered.

“We think it is absolutely the future,” he said. “If science is to be relevant and have high impact it needs to go where the people are, and nowadays that means places like Facebook and Twitter.”

Cassella said if the website is able to reach 250,000 young Australians, that should translate to reaching a further 11 million Australians on Facebook.

“The first thing many young Australians do when they wake up in the morning is grab their smartphone and go on Facebook – even before they get out of bed,” he said.

“This will give them fresh science news directly, which they can share with their friends, families and contacts. Young Australians each have around 250 contacts on Facebook – double the world average, so news about science is going to spread all the faster here.”

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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