Tweets about science flooded twitter feeds again yesterday when Science released its list of the top 50 scientists on twitter and their corresponding K-index. If you haven’t heard of the K-index, you’re probably not on very high on it. The top 50 list received an enormous (and rather negative) response in the twittersphere. Why? Aside from obvious flaws of only relying on twitter followers and neglecting to include a lot of great female scientists, the top 50 list revived the reviled K-index!
Scientists that use twitter already took the k-index out of its self-imposed isolation, slapped it with a failing grade as a joke, highlighted its egregious mistakes, directed it to use real data before injecting it with a lethal dose of reality and leaving it to die. Many scientists that use twitter lambasted the K-index because they knew how useful it could be especially for sourcing articles (#icanhazpdf anyone) that are NOT open access and for outreach.
Contrary to popular belief, many scientists spend a lot of energy and effort in outreach because they understand and acknowledge the importance of scientific communication. Don’t think science communication is important? Consider how it affects the parent’s decision on whether or not to vaccinate a child. Science communication isn’t exactly easy either.
Don’t do enough of it (it being sci-comm, of course), and someone else will step in with grossly misleading headlines on how your research shows that aspirin cures cancer. Do too much of it, and fellow scientists will disrespect you and remind you that your place is back at the bench (K-index anyone). Do it poorly and you will have the same results as not doing enough, or you will be ignored to the point that when someone confirms your findings it will look completely like a huge discovery rather than an incremental one.
Those in science that are able to communicate science with elegance, enthusiasm, poignancy, and precision are praiseworthy. Hats off to those of you who do it so well–that means you, GeneoTW writers, Science 2.0 and other science bloggers. You are all awesome! For the rest of us, we’ll just have to keep trying.
Now go back to tweeting great science, people.