All A'Twitter: How Social Media Aids in Science Outreach

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Zimmerman, Caitlyn


Johnson, Zackary

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The world of science communication is changing with the increased use of social media and online resources. No longer is science for science’s sake; some scientists are beginning to understand the value and necessity of sharing scientific research with a wider audience. Scientific journals are great for sharing trusted findings between scientists within a specific field. However, outside of the field, these articles tend to be too complex and full of jargon for the average person. Also, research journal articles can be costly, limiting the availability of scientific articles to the public. Therefore, scientists are realizing they require a more effective way to share information to a general audience with no monetary costs. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging, have shown potential to fill this void.

This project investigates the use of social media as an aid to science outreach. I designed a survey instrument and distributed it to independent scientists and scientific institutions to gain insight into how social media is used to promote science research as well as why scientists do not use social media. In addition, I worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal Services Center (CSC) on the Multipurpose Marine Cadastre (MMC) project, with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), as social media specialist. I managed Twitter, Facebook and a blog for this project and gained intimate knowledge of how it works on the ground to use social media inside of a government agency, using this experience as a case study.

Using the knowledge gained from this case study experience, as well as the survey results, I developed a set of best practices for social media use in science outreach. These guidelines are meant to aid in social media use to ensure greater success in terms of science outreach by scientists to the general public.





Zimmerman, Caitlyn (2012). All A'Twitter: How Social Media Aids in Science Outreach. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.