There’s an under-utilized platform for science writers and communicators, and I think it deserves more attention: the r/sciencecommunication subreddit.
What’s so great about it, and why bother with Reddit? For one, Reddit organizes its subreddits by subject matter, rather than by the social connections of its users. It’s basically an article-driven online forum, where anyone can link to stories or information (or even directly post their own commentary) and then build out discussion threads. The structuring by category (e.g., sciencecommunication) rather than by personal social network makes it easy for any person interested in the subject matter to find content and add their voice to a conversation. It also helps to keep the content focused, rather than the sporadic chaos that social media often fosters.
As of now, r/sciencecommunication is a vast, empty field, with barely a hundred users. But, it has real potential to become a centralized hub for science communication online.
What kind of content could r/sciencecommunication deliver? At a minimum, it can serve as a depot for popular news coverage of scientists’ efforts at public engagement. It can also be a great place to share and discuss the latest original research on the psychology and application of effective scientific communication. Such a centralized site might even help to bring together the community of SciComm bloggers, whose content is voluminous—but widely diffused across the web.
Perhaps scientists can share their personal experiences “talking science” with others. Or even better, non-scientists might share their perceptions and interactions with us ivory tower types!
Now, the bad news: unlike “true” social media, there isn’t a built-in network of subscribers who see posts. The users have to be brought to Reddit. So it will take a concerted promotional effort for any meaningful community to form around r/sciencecommunication.
The good news is that Reddit.com is one of the most heavily-trafficked sites in the U.S. It ranks #7 on Alexa’s listing, nestled just between Wikipedia and Twitter. Currently, only a small slice of Americans get their news there—but that number will almost certainly grow as online news consumption increases. Even with that limitation, there are already over 15 million subscribers to the science subreddit, a forum strictly limited to peer-reviewed postings (and lacking a SciComm slant). Many of those users are prime targets for a forum dedicated to the advancement and understanding of scientific communication.
The best way to get this ball rolling is to take an active role yourself. Go to r/sciencecommunication, post content, share your two cents, and get the community started. (Basics on Reddit can be found here; it’s available across all mobile platforms).
And, if you think this is a good idea worth pursuing, share this post with others. Spread the word.
(Disagree? Think Reddit is not the best move? I’d love to hear your comments and feedback, too!)
Update (2/28/17): There are in fact two subreddits worth considering, and I neglected to mention r/scicomm, which has a distinct—though overlapping—set of users. The fact that there are two subreddits with the same mission and equally fledgling user bases raises the issue of redundancy. To which, I have no answer!