Social media key to getting ahead, PhD students hear

Skills, reputation and peer networks can be built online even when stuck in the lab

January 9, 2014

Source: Alamy

Expert communicators: extending the conversation outside the lab is key

Social media provide PhD students with a way to extend their professional networks, get value from conferences they cannot physically attend and develop communication skills, according to experts at a conference for doctoral students at research institutions in the Cambridge area.

The EBI-Sanger-Cambridge PhD Symposium, known as eSCAMPS, is an annual conference run by doctoral students at the European Bioinformatics Institute, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge.

This year, organisers added a mandatory session on the use of social media in science, with experts discussing how PhD students can build a reputation online, interact with other researchers and engage with the public.

Steven Witte, a PhD student at the Sanger Institute and a member of the eSCAMPS organising committee, told Times Higher Education that postgraduate courses in other disciplines, for example business, are already integrating social media training. “We saw that as a gap in scientists’ training,” he said.

“Social media give everybody some tools to do some things that could previously be done only with traditional media,” he said.

Mr Witte said that scientists traditionally communicate with each other through published literature and by attending conferences. But social media now allow early career scientists to come into contact with each other more often, and provide new ways to communicate with the public and policymakers.

Delegates at the conference – held in November at Peterhouse, Cambridge – heard that many PhD students are already active on Twitter, which can help them find postdoctoral positions, raise their profile as experts in a specific field and search for potential collaborators. Others enhance their reputations by blogging about their work in the lab.

Twitter can also help to bolster students’ communication skills, said Eva Amsen, outreach director at the journal F1000Research. Such skills are vitally important for writing research abstracts for papers, grant applications and teaching courses, Dr Amsen, who also spoke at the event, told THE.

She noted that Twitter was also a “really good way” to extend conversations beyond the laboratory or conference.

Through the social network, students can get to know the broader community in their field and researchers they have never met before.

Following proceedings on Twitter allows those who cannot make it to an event to find out what is going on, Dr Amsen added.

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Lecturer/Assistant Professor of Psychology UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN (UCD)
Lecturer/Assistant Professor of Geography UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN (UCD)
Lecturer/Assistant Professor of Economics UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN (UCD)
Lecturer/Assistant Professor (BDIC) UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN (UCD)
Lecturer/Assistant Professor in Social Work UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN (UCD)

Most Commented

Home secretary says government will support 'best' universities

Man handing microphone to audience member

Academic attainment of disadvantaged students can be improved if they can decide how they are assessed, study claims

Woman drinking tea from saucer

Plugging a multibillion-pound deficit exacerbated by June’s poll result may require ‘drastic measures’, analysts have warned

Italy's gold medallist

New measures to ensure universities are ‘not penalised’ for taking poorer students also outlined for next stage of TEF

Classroom, school

Higher education institutions can and should do more to influence education at a secondary school level, says Edward Peck