Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Science Advocacy and Social Media

By Campbell Phillips

The ever-changing media landscape is continuing to affect the role of science communication. How can scientists and medical practitioners be expected to respond to social media?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In the world of Web 2.0, where information is shared, diluted, convoluted and conflated just as easily as it is published, how can the layperson expect to divine fact from fantasy?

The past year has seen radical changes in the media landscape, and particularly in science communication, where credibility and accuracy of reportage have been called into question in several instances. These events threaten the exposure of scientific knowledge in the wider community, as people turn to the internet in ever greater numbers for information.

The problem is compounded on social media, in which platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow information to become part of a virtual popularity contest, where the winners are usually pictures of cats or quotations of cheap sentiment. In this information age it has become very difficult to parse what isn’t from what is.

Among such a muddle, is there an opportunity for useful science advocacy? Can an aspiring voice of reason be heard in such a crowded room?

The Digital Debate

Unfortunately, the notion of using a virtual forum for an intellectual debate is nothing more than a pipe dream. Mostly, this is because there is rarely a cohesive incentive to keep the debaters (i.e. users, commentators) reasonable or civil, let alone honest.

Of course, that doesn’t stop the occasional challenge being thrown...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Campbell Phillips is a professional writer/researcher covering topics including science, nature, business and technology. Content Creator and Editor of, you can also follow him @Phillips_CF.