- New Careers Podcast: Louis Stupple Harris.
- "quite simply the best"
- Responsible Innovation Article
- STS Summer Internships
- STS Research behind EPSRC Statement
- New book: Presocratics and the Supernatural
- Sleepwalking in Middle Ages
- UK citizen views on carbon capture and storage: new study
- PlosOne for Stilgoe: new paper
- MSc prize winner
- STS Alumnus Publishes Policy Report
- Prize winning dissertation
- Material Histories of Chemistry
- Light and Dark
- Emotions, Transformations, Restorations
- New paper: Helmholtz Club, Neuroscience and Francis Crick
- New scholarship for PhD studies
- STS PHD students shine
- Notes for brewing genius
- STS Goes Dutch
- Vacancy: Project Co-ordinator
- New Careers Podcasts
- Why should we promote public engagement with science?
- New Paper: The Science of Destruction:
- UCL Donors help fund a forgotten treatment for TB
- PhD Studentship: Making the Oceans Visible
- STS Prof in award-winning book
- Vacancy: Lecturer in Science Communication
- STS Prof Hits 4 Million
- Vacancy: Lecturer in Science & Technology Studies
- PhD Conference Review. September - January.
- 8th London Ancient Science Conference
- STS explores science on a pagan planet
- Wonderments of the Cosmos
- STS Trip! War Rooms & Banquetting House
- Emotions, Transformations, Restorations
- New paper: Harvey, Aristotle, Astrology
- Students notice excellence
- STS Research Day 2014
- The Closed Loop
- STS Contributes to Science Policy
- Awe Fear and Fireworks
- Undergraduate Prizes 2014
- Two STS staff promoted
- Farewell Jo Pearson
- Prof Agar on Science and WW1
- Brian Balmer speaks at UN
- NSS2014 - STS scores 100 percent (again)
- STS takes on Latin America (part 1)
- European funding success
- Upcoming Event: Perspectives On Neglected Tropical Diseases
- STS PhD students shine in South America
- Honorary degree for STS leader
- Student Success For Grand Challenge Pitch
- First STS Haldane Lecture Announced
- STS Seminars Confirmed
- Eugenics at UCL: We inherited Galton
- A Clichéd History of Computing
- STS PhD student on the BBC Breakfast Show
- Fireworks, with Simon Werrett
- RRI in Rome
- CFP: Philosophy of Information workshop
- STS's Stilgoe speaks to Parliament
- STS research seminars Term 2 announced
- Prof Frank James elected
- Students Organise BSHS Postgraduate Conference 2015
- Science Communication Careers Event for STS Students
- Student article on science funding
- New book: Politics of Geoengineering
- Toxic World
- London Ancient Science Conference
- STS Invited to the UN in Geneva
- STS PGTAs Shine at the Teaching and Learning Conference 2015
UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies is an interdisciplinary centre for the integrated study of science's history, philosophy, sociology, communication and policy, located in the heart of London. Founded in 1921. Award winning for teaching and research, plus for our public engagement programme. Rated as outstanding by students at every level.
At UCL, the academic mission is paramount. Our ambition is to achieve the highest standards in our teaching and research.
Join us for BSc, MSc, and PhD study.
Staff books include:
STS Contributes to Science Policy
3 July 2014
What Role Can Social Media Play In Science Policy?
Last week saw UCL Science and Technology Studies host the first in a series of new events run in association with the Guardian Science Policy Blogs. The event – a discussion on the topic of ‘what role can social media play in science policy?’ – fought off stiff competition from football (Germany vs Portugal) to attract a sizeable audience from across academic, media, and public sectors. The intention was to provide a discussion based in empirical experience of social media and science policy. The first two speakers therefore provided us with the stories behind two significant events on this topic. Síle Lane, Director of Campaigns at Sense about Science, opened with the Libel Reform campaign of 2009-2013. Social media was used initially to connect groups who shared concerns about risks of defamation – writers and celebrities, as well as scientists – into an online voice for libel reform. Building on this, campaigners then used social media to attract over 60,000 signatories to a petition, as well to disseminate pro-libel reform arguments, activities, and stories. Síle was followed by Jenny Rohn, a cell biologist at UCL and founder of Science is Vital. This group originated in 2010 with a blog post from Jenny in response to threatened science budget cuts. With only four weeks to act social media was essential to acquire rapid support for a petition and a ‘No More Doctor Nice Guy’ rally. Despite the different aims and timescales of the two campaigns, there were a great many common features. Both noted the importance of social media to reach a very diverse range of people extremely quickly, and in making connections between interested parties (including politicians) easy to create – even if just in the form of useful links. But both also noted the importance of offline activities: Sense About Science worked with the mantra ‘a hashtag is not a campaign’ to encourage supporters to write letters to MPs and keep spreading word-of-mouth information; Science is Vital were careful to maintain links with traditional media outlets. This portion of discussion also ended with a cautious note about ‘petition fatigue’ – when social media makes campaigning easier, any single campaign risks getting lost in the noise.
Originally Julian Huppert MP was to speak on his experiences on the other side of the divide, as a policy-making audience for such campaigns; however, he was called away from the event by the party Whips to a vote in the House of Commons. So the talks concluded with Jamie Bartlett, Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos and technology blogger for the Telegraph. Jamie’s role was to speak as a specialist in social media, rather than science and science policy, to contextualise the previous stories within broader trends – in particular, the great attention and trust internet information carries in contemporary discussion. As before, Jamie described the close relationship between social media and traditional media – social media tends to react to mainstream media stories, but journalists and producers then draw heavily on social media discussion to guide reportage as the story unfolds. He also noted how information can become mostly passed around within close networks of people with pre-existing shared beliefs (particularly groups with fringe views, such as the EDL or climate sceptics), and that breaking a tweet out of these echo chambers can be best accomplished by being expressed in an extreme or entertaining fashion. Thus establishing the ‘true’ impact or reliability of online information can be extremely challenging.
The responses from Síle and Jenny, as well as the audience, to Jamie’s talk suggested that many of the issues facing science-centred campaigns are familiar across social media usage more broadly. Even the traditional notion of a scientific ‘expert’ is increasingly in competition with new notions of expertise, based on whose tweets are being consulted. This last point, and broader concerns of how information can be effectively (and safely) shared and democratically used was the main thrust of the question session. Another theme which emerged during the questions about the future where social media are going, and how to make sure they are used according to long-term shared goals rather than helping fragmentation of groups. There was also the question of whether nuanced debate is ever possible on Twitter. Overall the discussion gave flesh to the oft-heard claim that social media provides both great opportunities and great challenges. However what emerged was that the debate cannot be about weighing up these opportunities and challenges, but rather navigating an ongoing chaos of information, democracy, and attention-seeking. What role science has to play in all this is, like much else, uncertain.
The event was organised and chaired by Oliver Marsh, with assistance from Jack Stilgoe, Melanie Smallman, and Simon Lock. This was another event in STS's Science and Society series.
A storify of the Tweets can be found at http://sfy.co/dkHx and audio of the event will hopefully be available soon.
Written by Oliver Marsh
Page last modified on 03 jul 14 12:01 by Joe Cain
UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS)
0207 679 1328 office | +44 207 679 1328 international
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.ucl.ac.uk/sts | @stsucl
postal address: Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT | United Kingdom
street address: 22 Gordon Square, London, WC1E 6BT | maps