Social media and academia do work well together – two years in and still a fan

It is now just over two years since I began tweeting and just under two years since I started blogging. My first end of year report saw me entering my second year as a fully converted Tweeter and Blogger and very happy indeed with my foray into the world of social media.  I had made new research contacts, got invitations to give talks to local conservation groups, got BBC Wildlife to acknowledge their vertebrate bias,

BBC Wildlife

been invited to give a talk on the subject at the Royal Entomological Society annual meeting and even got a publication in the journal Animal Conservation!  So I definitely finished 2013 on a high and began the New Year with an almost evangelical desire to convince all my colleagues to join in the fun.

So now here I am, two years in. Is it still working for me?  Most definitely.  I have amassed over 2300 followers on Twitter and 124 people are signed up to receive updates to my blog.  I have, including this article, written 65 blog posts.  Views on my blog have increased from a daily average of 39 to 67 and at the time of writing it has received over 22000 views compared with just over 14000 last year.  I figure that this is considerably more exposure than I get from my published scientific papers.  That said, I have as a direct result of my blogging activities had two more papers published (Leather, 2014, 2015) and been asked to submit a more formal version of my end of year report to Antenna (the house journal of the Royal Entomological Society) which will give me a chance to sway a somewhat larger entomological audience than I had at the annual meeting last September (2013)! My good-natured jibes (via Twitter) at the Journal of Animal Ecology accusing them of a vertebrate bias, resulted in me being asked to edit one of their Virtual Issues which in turn, resulted in a very interesting post on their blog by their Editor-in-Chief Ken Wilson.

As a journal editor, I have been able to find referees for papers and also new editorial board members. I have also found Twitter an invaluable way of advertising the MSc course in Entomology that I run here at Harper Adams University,  of advertising PhD and staff positions and of generally reaching and interacting with a huge number of like-minded people around the world.   It is of course not all one way traffic, I get a number of requests for help and information that I am, if able, happy to respond positively to.

My biggest buzz this year was to receive a complimentary copy of a book by Peter Smith (Smith, 2014), in which one of my blog posts,

Smith book

Are PhD Examiners really ogres? was quoted several times.   I have to confess that this gave me pretty much the same feeling that I got when I saw my first ever paper (Leather, 1980) in print 😉

So to answer the question I posed at the start of this post. Yes, I am still as firmly, if not more so, convinced as I was a year ago, that social media is an essential part of a rounded academic life.  Of course if you are reading this I am probably preaching to the converted 😉


Leather, S.R. (1980) Egg survival in the bird cherry-oat aphid, Rhopalosiphum padi. Entomologia experimentalis et applicata, 27, 96-97.

Leather, S.R. (2013) Institutional vertebratism hampers insect conservation generally; not just saproxylic beetle conservation. Animal Conservation, 16, 379-380.

Leather, S.R. (2014) How Stephen Jay Gould wrote Macbeth – not giving credit where its due: lazy referencing and ignoring precedence. Ideas in Ecology & Evolution, 7, 30-40.

Leather, S.R. (2015) An entomological classic: the Pooter or insect aspirator. British Journal of Entomology and Natural History, 28, in press

Smith, P. (2014) The PhD Viva: How to Prepare for your Oral Examination.  Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke




Filed under Bugbears, The Bloggy Blog

15 responses to “Social media and academia do work well together – two years in and still a fan

  1. A very interesting post, thank you. How do your departmental colleagues view your social media activities? How do social media activities fit in with REF priorities?


  2. I think that is a very impressive record in two years. Getting the BBC to admit it has a vertebrate bias is a great step forward. The media control access, not just to knowledge but to the level of interest it inspires in the public by the very manner in which it is presented. Amelia

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Victoria Wickens

    I have only recently been converted to twitter and found it a valuable place for the very latest from conferences to papers, to videos and contacts. I completely agree it is a fantastic way to share and build upon.


    p.s. Thank you for the book tip, how to prepare for your examination. Have you considered writing your blogs up into a book? Or some of your amazing experiences and thoughts combined with the latest evidence in one?


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  5. I’m really pleased you’re enjoying social media, because I enjoy reading and following scientists like you. It’s great to get your insight into your research and valuable information that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. And I feel it’s important to reach more people and spread awareness about the small creatures that do so much for our world. More spineless stories and insect reflections for 2015 please!

    What next? Insects on Instagram? Aphids on YouTube? EntoProff Page on Facebook? 😉


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  8. When I was in my early teens, I was taken to a nearby village of ours by a mother of a friend where I saw different insects flapping and flailing their wings with fashion and their queuing sounds vibrating an echoing across the village. Since from that day I fal in love with the science of Entomology with all my birds. I have read some books on insects published by Harvard Publishing Press and other publishing houses like Cambridge Publishing press, lovely. But, the question is not WHAT is social networking sites but WHY you haven’t join them until when the world is near to come to an end as Lucassian Professor of Mathematics Steven Hawking proposed after the discovery of Higgs Bosons at CERN in 2013?


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