Exploring the Role and Value of Social Networking in Advancing the Chemical Sciences

 “Role and Value of Social Networking in Advancing the Chemical Sciences” was a well-attended full day symposium on the CINF track on Monday, September 9, 2013 at the ACS Indianapolis Meeting. The symposium was subdivided into four areas with invited speakers specifically addressing the following topics: Social Media for the Individual Scientist, Social Media to Support Education, Social Media to Share Science with the Community, and Social Media to Share Chemical Information. This allowed for participants, both in the room and online, to achieve the goal of the symposium which was to “review how these [social media] tools are presently being used and what the opportunities are for the future for improved engagement with the existing systems or the development of new and improved tools.”

I had the distinct honor of co-organizing this symposium alongside CINF Chair, Antony Williams. It is amusing that Tony and I had the opportunity to work together on this “social media in science” symposium since we met via social media: Twitter to be specific. He attended the ACS Denver Tweetup in 2011 that I organized. We connected as co-organizers for this CINF session because my astute ACS Division of Small Chemical Businesses Program Chair, Joe Sabol, spotted Tony’s blog post on LinkedIn announcing this session. Joe immediately alerted me (using the old fashioned phone call which is still sometimes the quickest) about this since I was in the process of organizing a symposium titled “Small Businesses Grow by Using Social Media” on the SCHB track for the Indianapolis meeting. One phone call (again using the spoken word communication) between Tony and I determined that we should merge two endeavors and co-organize a symposium under the CINF banner with SCHB as a co-sponsor. Tony and I worked together to publicize the session via our respective social media vehicles. Two weeks prior to the meeting the symposium was mentioned in a tweet by Egon Willighagen commenting positively on the utilization of Twitter handles for our morning and afternoon session announcements. Morning session speaker David Wild, whose talk centered around cheminformatics, wikis and Google forums, suggested a session hashtag #smchem in addition to the conference hashtag #ACSindy for use by both those live tweeting at the session and those following along on Twitter. The additional hashtag filter turned out to be critical due to the alacrity of the #ACSindy feed.

Tony kicked off the morning session with his “Personal experiences in participating in the expanding social networks for science” with an emphasis on how he got started with social media, including the re-branding efforts with his social media self: from @ChemSpiderman to @ChemConnector. Personal branding continued to be a theme throughout the morning session as I spoke at length on myself and my father/business partner as the PID brand: @pidgirl and @pidguy respectively. Tony also illustrated his use of altmetrics from Plum Analytics which served nicely as an introduction to Andrea Michalek’s talk on how altmetrics is gaining momentum and an overview of the functionality of their PlumX tool.  ACS Network gurus Chris McCarthy and Christine Brennan-Schmidt spoke about using tools collaboratively to communicate and advance science. Bob Belford shared with us the twenty year story from ChemConf to ConfChem. The morning session was closed by “Grace Baysinger, chem librarian extraordinaire at Stanford” as Donna W ‏@CaltechChemLib tweeted during the session. @ChemConnector chimed in with his tweet “Grace Baysinger talks about #XCITR. Originally hosted by Fiz Chemie now hosted by Royal Society of Chemistry http://www.xcitr.org/ #smchem.”

For the afternoon session we had invited Carmen Drahl, Senior Editor of C&EN, to moderate our panel discussion and, additionally, Carmen agreed to live tweet from our session as part of her #WHERESCARMEN crowdsourcing experiment, which, of course, garnered more Twitter attention for our symposium. This can correlate to increased attendance in the session at the conferences.  

Bibiana Campos-Seijo, Editor of Chemistry World, opened the afternoon session emphasizing that “You cannot ignore the power of social media” as tweeted by Carmen Drahl. George Ruger from the ACS Mid-Hudson Local Section addressed the ways in which social media can be used to communicate science to the community. Evan Bolton concluded the talks with his experienced tale of social networking and PubChem. Next, the session speakers Andrea, George and Evan were joined by Joe Sabol, SCHB Program Chair, and Mark Jones, Communications Fellow for Dow Chemical, for the panel discussion moderated by Carmen Drahl. Carmen asked the panelists the following questions:

  • How do you advise a colleague who tells you they have an interest in social media, but has no idea how to use it or where to start?
  • What social tools do you think chemists have not explored enough yet?
  • Are there any social media tools that you feel are over-utilized?

The discussions proceeded in the fast pace and brought the apparent interest from the audience: all eyes on the panelists’ responses (less live tweeting for those not in attendance). It would have been better if the panel discussion was videotaped.

The day concluded with a short interactive workshop organized by Antony Williams, Teri Vogel and Andrea Michalek (the facilitators were assembled by using crowdsourcing via Tony’s call-to-action power of blogging) with the intended agenda to discuss online forums, public profile tools, altmetrics, reference managers and collaborative platforms.

There was definitely in-room live-tweeting going on throughout the day. Tony was stationed in the back of the room and I was on the stage presiding, timing the speakers, and tweeting simultaneously.  Based on feedback from colleagues, next time I will attempt presiding and tweeting from the front row rather than the stage, in order to avoid a distraction to the audience members in being engaged with the speakers. Tony and I are collaborating again in organizing a symposium (in four half day sessions) to explore “Evolving Nature of Scholarly Publishing: Connecting Scholars to Each Other and to Society” at Pacifichem. If a trip to Hawaii in December 2015 sounds good to you, I hope you will join us on our next “social media in science” quest.

Jennifer Maclachlan, Carmen Drahl, Antony Williams

Jennifer Maclachlan, Symposium Co-Organizer