By Megan Stevens
At many scientific association conferences I have attended on behalf of an STM publisher, I’ve heard the same refrain from many older scientists: “With all this online content, the serendipitous discovery of new techniques or innovations that could be applied to other disciplines is lost!”Apparently, being able to down-select immediately on the journal’s homepage or subscribe to a discipline-specific RSS feed is causing the downfall of the STM world. And the publishers are to blame!
It may be true that young scientists are no longer sitting down in large cushy armchairs and leafing through cross-disciplinary journals (in print). These young whippersnappers just pull out their laptops and do a keyword search when they need an article. Though search features and well-categorized websites have eliminated most of the aimless paper flipping, I would argue that there is a different place that provides the desired chance encounters. Social media.
As of March 3rd :
- the Science Facebook page had 31,773 “likes”
- @Sciencemagazine had 14,701 followers on Twitter
- the Nature Facebook page had 34,546 “likes”
- @NatureNews had 133,271 followers on Twitter
Look at those numbers. That’s a lot of people who are being notified every time these publishers tweet (each averages more than 4 times a day). I can’t provide the number of click-throughs generated, but I can promise that if it wasn’t working ,they wouldn’t be doing it.
What these older scientists don’t realize is that most STM publishers have a very strong social media presence, just like the younger scientists do. They write about interesting articles they publish, links included, so that anyone who views the page can see a list of highlighted articles and click straight to them. People go there to read up on the new stuff, make comments and ask questions. The community built online is probably even better at generating such opportune insights. Young scientists are still as interested in the goings-on in other disciplines—they just prefer to find out about them on their smart phones. And the publishers get that.
Megan Stevens is a graduate student in the Publishing program at The George Washington University.