Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmx DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 28 August 2009

We're going to need a bigger hashtag(s)

There's going to be a debate, between Lord Drayson and Ben Goldacre, on the quality of science journalism / PR in September at the RI.

Science reporting: is it good for you? (Sold out)

The debate's already started, to a certain extent, on Twitter with a few people throwing examples of good science journalism / PR around and others countering with examples of the bad. I think we might be missing an opportunity to corrall or collate this information and that a couple of hashtags, one for the good and one for the bad, might be helpful.

This would enable us, if anyone wanted, to
  • collect some real world examples for future 'arguments' as well as this debate (might be useful for #scicomm students too?)
  • get a (preliminary and inexact) idea of the number and type of good and bad examples and the strength of feeling about them
At the moment I can't help thinking that currently both 'sides' are not going to do much better than selecting references from our own prejudices. At least that's what I'm going to do :)

For example, I work for Diabetes UK and people with diabetes or the parents of children with the condition will occasionally ring me (well not 'me' as an individual but the team I work in, and other front line teams too) to ask about diabetes breakthroughs they've read about in the newspapers.

I wouldn't want to overstate the case though (a) people quite often ring us about corporate websites where some 'intervention' is being sold, and that has nothing to do with science journalism (it's not in a newspaper or on its site) and (b) sometimes people misread what is being said in the paper (ie the article's fine but has been misunderstood).

There's a danger that, because of my job, I'm perhaps going to come up with rather unhelpful suggestions of news articles that hyped something related to diabetes, just because I tend to remember these ones better.

So... hashtags - I'll admit I'm a bit stumped for what these hashtags might be and I don't think the idea has really 'taken off' shall we say, but at a push how about #yayPR and #booPR or #yaynews and #boonews. I'm not normally this poor at coming up with hashtags!

This is a separate issue from the use of #scidebate as the hashtag for the RI event itself ...

One problem I can think of is that of 'weighting' a suggested article. I might think an article is very good on a topic that I'm not very familiar with but a scientist working in that field might think it's awful. Another issue that's already been pointed out to me (h/t @EvidenceMatters) is the relative importance of the topic.

Other problems are practical - how will people fit a newspaper citation into a Tweet? Who will harvest and deduplicate the hashtagged data.

It was at this point that I thought an everybody-can-edit Google Doc might come in handy and it would certainly save all that tweeting ;)

Just a thought...


  1. Bother - I still haven't come up with anything intelligent on this. I was also wondering how to classify a piece like this: Scientists are only two years from developing a cure for breast cancer? Orac comments on a Telegraph story - so the story would need to be extracted from that.

  2. I see what you mean. The original report wasn't a high point but the science blog version was... heh!

    Hadn't heard the context behind the Folkman quote about mice. I came across a similar one on a diabetes forum once "We've all seen and heard how a mouse can be cured of diabetes with a haircut, a squirt of Chanel and a couple of altoids." ;)

  3. If you need to curate a twitter channel during a conference, The Guardian have already written some code for this:


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