Survey of UW faculty finds that 49% use social media to communicate science

How do UW-Madison scientists use and perceive social media? A recent article in The Scientist, authored by current faculty and former students from CALS’ life sciences communication department, says “scientists are beginning to embrace social media as a viable means of communicating with public audiences.”

And that’s a good thing, the authors indicate: “The ability to communicate the societal value of basic research to nonacademic audiences is … morphing from an optional soft skill to a crucial tool for scientists who are competing over finite or shrinking resources for research.”

The article, which reports findings from a survey of tenure-track scientists at the UW-Madison, was authored by Sara K. Yeo (now faculty at University of Utah), Michael A. Cacciatore (now faculty at University of Georgia), Dominique Brossard, Dietram A. Scheufele, and Michael Xenos.

The authors say that 49 percent of those sampled reported visiting science-related social networks such as ResearchGate or, which are Facebook-like networks designed specifically for scientists and researchers to share their work. The findings also show that scientists are starting to embrace Twitter as a tool for communicating research and keeping abreast of advancements in their fields.

“[S]cientists are only beginning to get their feet wet in this new communication world. Given the controversial nature of many recent scientific debates, researchers will have to do much more to connect directly with public audiences,” the authors write.