Negotiating freedom of expression and professional controversy:
The use and misuse of social media among scientific researchers
Jennifer L. Moss, MSPH, Student SIG Outlook liaison
Phapichaya Chaoprang Herrera, MA, Student SIG Outlook liaison
Social media serves a dual purpose for scientists by facilitating both personal and professional communication. For example, researchers use social media to network with friends or other scientists, to engage with the public or students, to curate online materials, and to respond to current events. However, a debate is emerging about social media use among scientific researchers, pitting researchers' right to express themselves against the expectation that they will represent themselves in ways that their institution finds acceptable. Members of the SBM Student SIG should keep in mind potential consequences of their social media use as they decide how to develop an online presence.
For researchers, if an institution finds some social media activity objectionable, even tenure and the support of faculty unions or free speech organizations may be inadequate to protect them. For example, recently, a professor faced public and professional censure after tweeting his doubts about the willpower of obese doctoral applicants to complete a dissertation. While the sentiments communicated by this tweet were upsetting and controversial, free-speech activists claim that the professors' rights were violated by their punishments. However, their reprimands still stand.
Many scientists cherish their freedom to disseminate their research and engage in intellectual discussions online, as well as their freedom to express personal opinions via social media. Free-speech advocates insist that everyone has the right to share their views without undue punishment. However, the reality is that scientists on social media can face criticism from the general public, other researchers, or their own institutions. Members of academia, especially students and early career scientists, will need to decide for themselves how to curate an online presence that meets their personal objectives without unduly endangering their careers.
With the 35th SBM Annual Meeting in Philadelphia approaching, we are looking forward to sharing our thoughts and interests on such topics with other rising professionals! This year we have several events lined up, and we are hoping that you will find time to visit each of them. Particularly, we would like to highlight the following symposia: Juggling Research Interests Symposium (4/24, 7:30-8:30am), and Finding Grants for Graduate Students (4/25, 7:30-8:30am). Breakfast will be served! In addition, the Student SIG will meet on 4/25, 12:25-1:15pm, to explore Reading Terminal Market.
There is also an opportunity to join the Behavioral Medicine Internship Meet and Greet on 4/25, 11:25-12:25pm. The Student SIG will host a social event at Smoking Betty's on 4/24, 8:00-10:00pm. Appetizers are included! On the behalf of the Student SIG committee, we would like to invite anyone interested to attend these events. See you all in Philadelphia!