Twitter is a fantastic place to share research, express opinions, and connect with others in the same field of research. This week on Twitter, I came across an image that was a hybrid between a science poster and an infographic. In four bullet points, a few photos and a couple of graphs, this ‘tweetable poster’, which is also known as a ‘graphical abstract’, revealed that scientists who had combined long-term monitoring data on the seasonality of nesting effort with a ground-based survey covering 585 km, had discovered that Gabon hosts the largest rookery of olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) in the Atlantic and that a significant proportion of nesting effort occurs inside Gabon’s extensive network of coastal protected areas.
Impressed and intrigued, I got in touch with the creator of the tweetable poster, Dr Kristian Metcalfe who is a Darwin Research Fellow at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation (which is the same place I studied for my Masters in Conservation and Biodiversity!) Kristian’s current research is focused on delivering a marine protected area network for fisheries and biodiversity in Central Africa, with a particular focus on the Republic of Congo and Gabon.
The Centre for Ecology and Conservation (@UoExeterCEC) encourages its staff and students to use social media to share their research and people like Kristian (@_KMETCALFE), or his colleague Professor Brendan Godley (@BrendanGodley) are well worth following if you are interested in biodiversity and conservation news. The original idea to share a visual abstract via Twitter was from George Swan (@GJFSwan), a graduate student at the Centre and as it proved successful, the template is now widely shared with staff and students, who also receive guidance on how to give effective presentations and produce engaging posters.
I asked Kristian why he creates tweetable posters and who his target audience is. “Not everyone outside of academia has access to scientific journals, largely because of the subscription costs involved,” said Kristian. “In addition, a significant number of papers are published each day and finding those that are of interest can be a slow process. Twitter makes it easier to hear about the latest news, views and research, and so the aim of these tweetable graphical abstracts is to ensure that our findings are also accessible to anyone with an interest in our research area, from policy makers to practitioners, as well as those with a general interest in biodiversity conservation.”
Condensing an entire paper down to a select few bullet points may seem daunting at first but when I asked Kristian if it was a challenge to do this, he said, “I wouldn’t say it is challenging but you have to think about what the most important findings are that would be of interest to a general audience not just scientists.”
The simplicity of a tweetable poster makes it easy to highlight a project’s impact or identify solutions, and by sharing them on Twitter, the reach of these posters goes far beyond that of the traditional posters you find at conferences. Twitter has already made science more accessible, and the adoption of these brief, simple posters can bring research to the fingertips of an even bigger and wider audience.