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A Polish lesson in Twitter

By Robbie Mitchell

Over the past 10 months, Alison, Tom and I have travelled to Poland several times to run workshops in new media and web 2.0 for scientists.

The 2-day workshops were borne out of our online course, Science Media Space, which we established with Bridge8 in 2013 as part of an Inspiring Australia project.

The Foundation for Polish Science found us online!

By May 2015 we will have run 14 workshops and trained more than 250 Polish researchers in how to communicate strategically using social media and web 2.0 tools including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Slideshare and Soundcloud.

Less than 5% of people in Poland have Twitter accounts, compared to the more popular social media networks, Facebook and Nasza Klasa (Poland’s Facebook equivalent).

On average, no more than 3 scientists per workshop have had any prior experience using Twitter.

So how do you show skeptical scientists (for whom English is a second language) the power of Twitter within one hour during an intensive 2-day workshop that covers a lot of ground?

We get them to write a tweet straight up.

The tweet has to describe their research in 140 characters using the hashtag #1tweetresearch (this was actually a Twitter challenge created by @AstroKatie in 2014).

While the workshop participants are doing that, we describe the language, functionality and best practices for using the micro-blogging tool.

The scientists find this exercise difficult, but they enjoy it. It is a great exercise for anyone, not just in Tweeting, but in communicating concisely.

What we try to show participants is that Twitter can be a quick and concise way to:

  • find other researchers in their field of research, who they can learn from and connect or collaborate with
  • aggregate and share news and resources
  • communicate about their research to a worldwide audience.

More than half of our workshop participants say that they will continue to use Twitter to communicate their research, particularly to communicate with English-speaking audiences at conferences, and with current and potential collaborators and funders.

Here are a few of our workshop participants who’ve taken to Twitter.

@Piotrkolodz – an archaeologist, egyptologist, lecturer, traveller and science communicator.

@SamTomasz – an environmental historian in Poland’s Białowieża Forest at day and comic book creator at night.

@r_olkowski – a biotechnology PhD student studying macrophage polarization, in vitro cell culture, angiogenesis, tissue engineering