1. Keep Up With The Current LiteratureOthers and myself have found Twitter to be a great way to keep on top of the current scientific literature. Of course you want to have you PubCrawler keeping you updated, and it doesn't hurt to browse journals' tables of contents in your inbox, but Twitter offers a unique venue for paper discovery. Once you start following a lot of your fellow researchers, you will start to realize that they find (and post) a lot of cool papers that you would have never come across. Some of the most interesting papers I have ever read, and some that I write about in this blog, were first seen posted by a friend on Twitter.
2. Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of the Scientific CommunityIt is great to keep up with the current literature, but it is equally important to keep in touch with the general interest of the scientific community. What are people talking about? What do people think is going to be the next big thing? Twitter allows you to start answering these questions both through the scientific news of the day, as well as an up-to-date summary of what people are thinking about the news. Keeping up with the real scientific commentary is great for focusing your news consumption on the topics that are most relevant to the general public and scientific communities. Additionally, getting news from fellow researchers is a great way to stay on the cutting edge of research, because other venues can be significantly slower.
3. Get the Most Out of Scientific ConferencesTwitter is simply great for conferences. One of the most notable ways Twitter affects conferences is through live Tweeting talks. Live tweeting at a conference means tweeting notes about the talk you are attending, as it happens. I think this is great because I am usually taking notes anyways, and this way people who cannot attend the conference can still get an idea of what is going on. Additionally, I love to look at other tweets during talks because it offers immediate different perspectives that can let me think about the research in different ways.
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4. Be A Member of the Scientific CommunityTwitter is still social media, so it offers opportunities for social connections. It is a great venue for connecting with other professional and non-professional scientists. I also think it is a great place for the general public to connect with scientists, ask questions, and see the things we think about. It is definitely a great place both for scientific communication and public outreach.
5. Learn to be Concise!This is probably one of the biggest benefits to being on Twitter. Every tweet can only be 140 characters long, which means you have to learn to say what you want in as few characters as possible. As scientists, we strive to be clear and concise, but often fall short. Twitter offers a great tool to help hone those skills and help you be a more concise and clear scientist.
Concluding RemarksSo if it was not clear yet, I think Twitter is a great place both for those who want to learn about science and for scientists. If you would like to take advantage of these benefits of Twitter, as well as the many benefits I did not mention, head over to the website and create an account. It's easy to get started, and if you need somebody to contact first, look me up @iprophage.
* Twitter image source.