Outside the Ivory Tower: Science Writing, Social Media, and Non-Painful Networking


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Outside the Ivory Tower: Science Writing, Social Media, and Non-Painful Networking

  1. 1. Outside the Ivory Tower: Science Writing, Social Media, and Non-Painful Networking Melanie B. Tannenbaum, M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  2. 2. Introduction • Melanie Tannenbaum, M.A. • Doctoral Candidate in Social Psychology • Blogger for Scientific American
  3. 3. Slide via Eva Amsen
  4. 4. Slide via Eva Amsen
  5. 5. Slide via Eva Amsen
  6. 6. My Path • Spring 2011: Writing & Speaking For A General Audience class. • May 2011: Class ended; I (nervously) started PsySociety. • March 2013: After 2 years, PsySociety picked up by SciAm.
  7. 7. Many options, many cool paths... • Today we will be focusing on science writing... • Because that’s the path I’m most familiar with. • And because we only have 1 hour! • Specifically, we’ll focus on the growing field of science blogging and how this can help you launch your own career.
  8. 8. Why Blog?
  9. 9. Slide via Eva Amsen
  10. 10. Why Blog? • For Others – General public & science literacy – Outreach & broader impacts of work – Sharing ideas with other researchers • For Yourself – Practice analyzing research & thinking critically – Improve writing skills – Create a writing portfolio
  11. 11. Who Am I Blogging For? • Younger kids & families • Other scientists in your field • Adults with little science background • Specific populations – Parents, female academics, etc.
  12. 12. How Do You Even Start?
  13. 13. What do you need to become a science writer? • A computer • Electricity • The Internet • Knowledge of something scientific
  14. 14. What do you need to become a science writer?
  15. 15. What do you need to become a science writer? All started out as unknown personal blogs, turned into group blogs, added functionalities that let readers contribute, and are now major media organizations that make money, hire and pay editors, and more!
  16. 16. But first... • To be a writer, you have to write. • Start by taking those long Facebook updates, e-mails, and Twitter conversations, and organizing them in a more serious way.
  17. 17. How To Write? • Think of having a blog like having your own writing laboratory. You can experiment – find your voice and style! • It’s okay if your early posts are clumsy. Everyone’s are. You can always delete them later. Or look back and laugh.  • But first...what should you write about?
  18. 18. Finding Your Beat
  19. 19. Finding Your Beat • What is your expertise? • What do you love? • What could be your niche? If you were to become the “go to” person on any topic, what do you think it should be?
  20. 20. Finding Your Beat • More Specific – Dog Spies • Explore the science behind the dog in your bed – The White Noise • A hit of addiction and mental illness, chased by chemistry and culture – Budding Scientist • Everything you wanted to know about raising science literate kids – Beautiful Minds • Insights into intelligence, creativity, and the mind
  21. 21. Finding Your Beat • More General – Streams of Consciousness • The scoop on how we think, feel, and act – The Scicurious Brain • The good, bad, and weird in physiology and neuroscience – Doing Good Science • Building knowledge, training new scientists, sharing a world – Not Exactly Rocket Science • The awe-inspiring, beautiful, quirky world of science
  22. 22. Finding Your Beat • The more specialized you are, the more you come to be seen as an “expert” on that topic, and the more name recognition you can build for yourself (ironically). • But, specializing too narrowly could prevent you from being able to write about some things when “inspiration” strikes elsewhere. Specialize enough to find a niche, but not so much that you place too many limits on what you can cover.
  23. 23. Me? • Started out at IonPsych, where I had no real “beat.” • When I went to start my own blog, I knew I had to become a little more focused/targeted. • I looked at everything I had written over the few months I was at IonPsych and thought, “What do all of these posts have in common?”
  24. 24. Me? • 1: Love & Hate being very similar emotional experiences, using examples from HIMYM & Friends • 2: Loving the Royal Wedding, with an explanation of the different types of power • 3: March Madness, with several posts on social psych studies that could be related to basketball
  25. 25. Me? • 1. Social Psychology • 2. Pop Culture – Broadly defined as celebrities, movies, music, TV, and also current events, holidays, and news stories
  26. 26. Me?
  27. 27. What’s My Beat? • Now, I can comfortably say it’s... • Psychology – Specifically social psychology – Very specifically persuasion & communication – “Science of Science Communication” • Saw this was a growing trend/concern, ran with it • + Pop Culture – Friends send articles about funny stuff they see in the news, ask me to explain certain things about celebrities – they know to come to me with this.
  28. 28. Growing A Niche
  29. 29. Growing A Niche
  30. 30. Growing A Niche
  31. 31. Now that you know what to write about... How to write about it?
  32. 32. Tone • Do you want to be... – Sarcastic? – Funny? – Serious? – Casual? • Whatever you want, it should be authentic. – If you’re not funny, please don’t try to be. – If you’re dry and sarcastic, run with it!
  33. 33. Tone • It can vary greatly. • Some blogs are written like research papers... • Some are written like formal e-mails... • And some say things like “suck” and “stupid” and have sassy commentary running throughout the whole post.
  34. 34. Tone • If you want to be able to use your blog as a professional portfolio (e.g., directing editors to look there as your “writing sample” when pitching pieces), you want to have at least some serious/formal pieces readily visible. • Casual is good and can even be the most effective (more people will read it all the way through), but be prepared for backlash from people not taking you seriously as a result. (Especially if you’re female.)
  35. 35. Blog Formats • You can practice with... – Interviews – Feature Pieces – Brief News Stories – Data Blitzes – Long Form Explainers
  36. 36. Blog Formats • Science Fiction • Poetry • Photography • Drawing or Painting • Data Journalism • Cartoons/Comics • Podcasts • Infographics • Videos
  37. 37. Alex Wild: Amazing Insect Photos
  38. 38. Beatrice the Biologist: Science Comics
  39. 39. CarinBondar& Joanne Manaster: Great Science Videos
  40. 40. Now that I’m writing... How do I share my work and connect with other bloggers?
  41. 41. Social Media ”Yes, I’m on Twitter for work!”
  42. 42. • You don’t have to be active on every single social media site, but if you create a blog or website, you should make an account for yourself on the major ones and at least provide a link to these sites, so people can find you. • What are the major ones? Social Media ”Yes, I’m on Twitter for work!”
  43. 43. Social Media Yes, I’m on Twitter for work! • You don’t have to be active on every single social media site, but if you create a blog or website, you should make an account for yourself on the major ones and at least provide a link to these sites, so people can find you. • Could also include... Social Media ”Yes, I’m on Twitter for work!”
  44. 44. Social Media Yes • Yes, it’s fun for social media to be part of your job. • But...remember that you should have a consistent, positive, professional image. • This doesn’t mean you can never drink or Tweet about your personal life.It just means that you should be aware of the public persona that you are constructing, and make it both consistent and something you are OK being tied to somewhat permanently. Image
  45. 45. Image • You don’t need to erase your personality in order to be “professional” on social media! • The best approach seems to be to pick 1-2 clear, inoffensive, interesting, unique details about yourself and stick to “personal life” tweets (mostly) about those 1-2 things. • Mine: Cats and Fitness, obviously 
  46. 46. Image • Some adults drink at professional conferences, some don’t. • No one will judge you poorly for drinking (in moderation...) • But...the same idea might not go for pictures of kegstands or shotgunning Natty Lites. • Just remember, people like having colleagues they can also enjoy as friends. This can mean grabbing a drink, but it also means not being a sloppy mess. Use your good judgment.
  47. 47. Tweeting Well • You all likely know how to tweet, retweet, etc... – If not, you can come ask me afterwards  • But, how can you use Twitter in a way that is good for your career & professional image/needs?
  48. 48. Tweeting Well • Follow The Right People – ScienceSeeker Members • https://twitter.com/SciSeeker/scienceseeker-members/ – Young Science Writers • https://twitter.com/notscientific/young-science-writers – ScienceOnline 2013 Attendees • https://twitter.com/seelix/scio13 – SciAm Bloggers & Contributors • https://twitter.com/sciamblogs/sciambloggers • https://twitter.com/sciam/sciam-contributors-2 – Bora Zivkovic: @BoraZ – Ed Yong: @edyong209 – Me!!: @melanietbaum
  49. 49. Tweeting Well • Tweet The Right Stuff – It’s OK to “butt into” other people’s conversations... • ...as long as you’re polite, friendly, useful, and constructive. – Retweeting Others – Personal, Humanizing Information? • Just remember the “image” points from earlier! – Your Own Writing/Posts – Unique Contributions • If everyone else is tweeting links to a story, article from the NY Times, Breaking Bad OMG moment...you don’t have to. • Set up Google Alerts for terms from your “beat.” • Link to posts from good-but-less-known blogs in your area • THIS IS HOW YOU BECOME THE GO-TO PERSON FOR YOUR NICHE!
  50. 50. Network, Network, Network!
  51. 51. Friends are important. • Networking is not just about “rubbing elbows” with big, important people. • Friends In Low Places • Horizontal Loyalty
  52. 52. Everything I’ve gotten in this field, I’ve gotten by networking.
  53. 53. Everything I’ve gotten in this field, I’ve gotten by networking.
  54. 54. Everything I’ve gotten in this field, I’ve gotten by networking.
  55. 55. Networking • Doesn’t have to be disingenuous, inauthentic, annoying “small talk,” or anything awful.
  56. 56. Networking • Doesn’t have to be disingenuous, inauthentic, annoying “small talk,” or anything awful. Hey! I just wanted to come say hi really fast...I’m Melanie, I study X, and I totally agree with what you said about Y. Here, I need to go refill my coffee, wanna come?
  57. 57. Networking • Doesn’t have to be disingenuous, inauthentic, annoying “small talk,” or anything awful. HEY GUYS WHO WANTS TO SPLIT SOME NACHOS
  58. 58. Networking • Doesn’t have to be disingenuous, inauthentic, annoying “small talk,” or anything awful.
  59. 59. Networking Generally, people like being able to work with other people they actually like. You need to do good work and be good at your job, but it helps to get along well with your potential colleagues, too.
  60. 60. Networking When SciAm goes to fill a spot on the network, of all of the good, hard- working science writers out there, who do you think will get that spot: The person that no one’s hung out with, or the person that everyone in the network is already friends with? Description of the underlying ethos of a blog network by Bora Zivkovic, Blog Manager at Scientific American
  61. 61. Networking But PLEASE DON’T take this to mean thatnewcomers aren’t welcome. The registration process for ScienceOnline is specifically designed to keep it from being the same people year after year. It’s just that being friendly and well-liked is (or can be) just as important as the actual work that you do. Even (especially) when you’re new and it’s your first time meeting people.
  62. 62. Networking • The one most commonly held opinion is that it is just as important to form strong bonds with your peers as it is to meet the “big guys.” • Find bloggers you like – follow them, read their stuff, run in the same circles on Twitter! • Takeaway Point: Write good content, get on Twitter, talk to people, share cool stuff – your own and/or other people’s stuff.
  63. 63. Conclusions • Find a “niche” – What do you want to be the “go-to” person on? • Experiment with style & voice – Feel free to be creative – find what works for you. • Use social media (appropriately) • Network, network, network!
  64. 64. Thank you! Melanie Tannenbaum www.melanietannenbaum.com www.twitter.com/melanietbaum www.facebook.com/melanie.tannenbaum www.facebook.com/psysocietyblog http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/psysociety/
  65. 65. Sources Bora Zivkovic: How To Break Into Science Writing http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/incubator/2013/04/02/how-to-break-into-science-writing-using-your-blog-and-social-media-sci4hels/ SciCurious: 8 Tips On Starting a Science Blog & More http://scienceofblogging.com/8-tips-on-starting-a-science-blog/ http://scientopia.org/blogs/scicurious/scicurious-on-scicomm/ Catherine de Lange: How To Get a Job in SciComm http://blogs.nature.com/naturejobs/2013/09/25/how-to-get-a-job-in-science-communication Eva Amsen: You’re All Different: Creating Your Own Career http://www.slideshare.net/easternblot/career-talknatjobs-forupload