Social networks as a connection key


Biography/Disclosures

Biography:

Mya L. Roberson, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and a Fellow of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.


Disclosures: Roberson does not report any relevant financial information.


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I often hear: “Hey, I know you on Twitter!” as I turn on my heels to identify the source. A variant of this exclamation has become commonplace in scientific conferences.

Particularly in an age characterized by so much distance, the use of social media can be helpful in connecting with new areas of scholarship, scientific colleagues, and those most affected by the work we do.


"Particularly in an age characterized by so much distance, the use of social media can be helpful in connecting with new areas of scholarship, scientific colleagues, and those most affected by the work we do." - Mya L. Roberson, Ph.D.



As a cancer care delivery scientist, I find social media to be an invaluable source of information and connection with people living with cancer. Many patient-led organizations curate incredible content that benefits those of us connected to oncology to read and interact with. The strong social media presence of patient-led organizations allows us to keep the pulse on issues important to people with cancer.

For me, social media connections with patient advocates have even led to patient-partnered research projects. Through social media, I was able to connect with people I might never have met otherwise. These outlets provide an opportunity to broaden our knowledge and stay grounded in what matters.

Beyond connecting with people affected by cancer, social media also gives us a unique opportunity to share our science. What better way to test our communication skills than to distill our main messages into 280 characters — spaces included! The size constraints inherent in applications like Twitter require us to be as concise and clear as possible when communicating important messages.

It also gives us the opportunity to spread our work beyond our peers to a wider audience. Public science communication is an important way to democratize cancer knowledge that can often stay in ivory towers. Often our peer-reviewed articles are hidden behind paywalls that are not always accessible to large populations. By tweeting the main messages of our work, we exponentially increase the number of people it could potentially reach. At a time when well-verified information can be difficult for the average person to discern, thoughtful communication to the public from oncology professionals becomes even more important.

Beyond public communication, social media offers us, as professional women, the opportunity to show our work to our peers. Research by Luc and his colleagues has shown that articles shared on Twitter often have higher citation counts than those that aren’t widely shared. Thinking about how you communicate your work beyond peer-reviewed publication is one small way to increase the visibility of the great work done by women.

Using social media in a professional capacity has a wide range of benefits for oncology professionals. At a time when many of our large gatherings have become hybrid or remote, this provides an opportunity to find and stay connected with our peers and those affected by cancer.

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