Scientists Don’t Use Social Media

According the article “Scientists & Social Media” in Lab Manager Magazine, a survey 200 lab managers revealed that most of these scientists didn’t use social media for work.  Yet they are some of the exact types of people who should. 

“Laboratories are at the forefront of research and analysis. But when it comes to communication, they are followers rather than leaders and can be very slow to adopt innovations.”

The article states the three most popular reasons for not using social networking resources are:

  1. Blurred boundaries between private and business life
  2. Loss of productivity
  3. Fear that confidential information will be leaked

It seems as if the scientists are thinking more that the tool (social networking sites) are the problem not the behavior of the person using the tool.  A person can blur their personal boundaries, waste time, and leak key secrets all without using a social networking resource because people use phones, email, and talk all the time. Lab Manager Magazine further explains this idea by saying, “Let us remember that these issues have little or nothing to do with the resources; they have to do with the people who use them. The opinions expressed by an individual can reflect badly on the organization but this risk is not confined to Twitter or Facebook; it applies equally to e-mail correspondence, phone calls, conversations at social events, and so forth. To paraphrase, it is not the gun that kills, but the person who pulls the trigger. We must step into the social media world and embrace the opportunities, but we must also manage the risks.”

For example, the famous or infamous social networking site WikiLeaks known for exposing various government secrets gets its information from submissions, not from people logging on and using the wiki. So that confidential information while displayed on the social sharing site of a wiki was most likely submitted by email. 

With all the misgivings some scientists have over social media, it is  inevitable that they will use it (or whatever it evolves into) in the future.  If you have some doubters in your institutions, check out the article’s list of reasons for using social media in the lab.

As I have said many times when I speak on the subject of social media, the phone was once a new technology not everybody had one and they didn’t understand why you needed to have one.  It was an expensive luxury.  I wonder how those people would think about society’s need for cell phones.  Email was once a new technology and doctors and scientists struggled over communicating appropriately through it.  It is so ingrained in our society that our phones now get email.  To quote the Borg, “Resistance if futile.”  Society and communication methods evolve, and it looks like this is just another way it is evolving.

One thought on “Scientists Don’t Use Social Media”

  1. This post reminds me of a conversation I had with my family doctor. I asked her if she was planning to implement electronic health records, and she went on a diatribe about why she was against them, the gist of which was that she didn’t trust them to protect patient privacy. I told her that a doctor had recently come into my library with a big stack of PubMed records, printed on the back sides of botched photocopy jobs. The botched photocopy jobs were mostly patient records with all kinds of personal information on them. Needless to say, I reported him to our privacy officer, but my point was that patient data can be leaked in many ways.

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