The meaning, chances and risks of social media
The explosive growth of social media in society in general and in science in particular raises assumptions about radical change of traditionally social structures and institutions. Optimistic assessments assume that society and science get more democratic, efficient and in touch with the people. Pessimistic evaluations point out quality loss and disinformation of the public. Sober analyses of the influence by social media in the field of science communication are rare. To allow a well balanced evaluation of the current situation the working group involves representatives from different key stakeholders in the field of scientific communication: researchers from different disciplines, (science) journalists, scientific PR staff, and social media users. The project is organized in collaboration with Acatech, Leopoldina and the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities.
A central question of the project is how specific characteristics of social media influence the field of science communication. Accordingly, the opportunities of new technologies (e.g. extension of range, expand participation, interactivity) as well as their risks (insufficient quality control, disinformation, mainstreaming, fragmentation) are identified and assessed.
For this purpose, the working group interviewed different stakeholders, established their own project blog and organized a public workshop. Furthermore, the working team will publish a position paper including the important research questions and perspectives as well as an overview of the current state of research and concede some recommendations how to use social media to enhance the opportunities and to reduce some risks of the usage of social media for science communication.