(This is a translation of an article published at Uppsala University magazine UNIVERSEN, Nr1 2016, by Josefin Svensson)

Last fall, Germán Orizaola and Ana Elisa Valdés wrote a letter to the journal SCIENCE in which they expressed concern over the tendency to limit the free use of social media at scientific conferences. They both argue that Twitter is a great way for outreach and to build networks, both within and outside the research community.

It was in connection with a last year conference that Germán Orizaola, researcher at the Department of Ecology and Genetics, became aware of the increasing tendency to restrict the free use of social media at scientific conferences.

– At that time, I was laying at the hospital and tried to follow a conference in Baltimore that I was interested in, but it proved impossible.

At this conference, the 100th Anniversary Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, the participants needed to ask permission for each seminar for the use of Twitter. As a result, very little information was available outside the conference room. Similar policies are now applied to more and more conferences, something which worries Germán Orizaola, who together with Ana Elisa Valdés, a researcher at the Department of Organismal Biology, wrote a letter about the incident that was published in the journal SCIENCE in October.

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– Twitter is a great tool to get to know what is happening in Science and what others are doing. Direct reporting from conferences is very useful and provides quick access to information that would otherwise have to wait long to get into other channels, he says.

One of the reasons for a restrictive use of social media at conferences, according to Germán Orizaola, is that people often do not want to publicize results or techniques that have not yet been published in scientific journals.

– But that argument does not hold when it comes to a conference whit over 4,000 people attending.

Germán Orizaola uses Twitter in their daily work (@GOrizaola) and also manages the department’s Twitter account (@AnimEcol_UU).

– It’s a great way to spread your own research, but I also use Twitter to gather information in other fields, for example on research communication. For me it is also a way to expand my network of contacts, both within my field of research and in other areas.

Ana Elisa Valdés is also active on Twitter (@AE_Valdes) and manages the account of the Physiology Botany Unit at the Department of Organismal Biology (@PhysiolBot_UU).

– On Twitter, you can send information directly that might be useful to others working in the same field, she says.

She also uses Twitter to learn more about things such as new teaching methods and applications of research funding.

– When it comes to teaching, Twitter can be a highly useful tool. You can easily find great tips and be inspired by others’ experiences.

None of them have had any negative experiences, for example in the form of malicious comments.

– It’s up to you how personal you want to be and what do you share. I see it as a highly positive activity, says Germán Orizaola.

Both feel that the number of users in the scientific community has increased in recent years and welcome that development.

– We live in an open world, and Twitter is an effective way to reach out, says Germán Orizaola.

– Communication through social media also makes Science more inclusive in the sense that it reaches out even those who are not part of the scientific community and people who, for various reasons, cannot participate in conferences and meetings, says Ana Elisa Valdés.

Josephine Svensson

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