Chemistry stars don’t shine in Science Magazine’s Twitter galaxy.

Hello everyone,

It’s been a while since I last blogged all the way back during #RealTimeChem week. A lot of interesting stuff has happened in the online chemistry world since then, in particular Science Magazine’s much debated and hugely controversial “Top 50 science stars of Twitter“. I’m a little late to write a long winded blog post on how immensely wrong this list was, but suffice to say it mostly boiled down to 1) a lack of women (4 out of 50!) and 2) zero chemists.

A galaxy of science stars. Probably more likely to find Wally than a chemist in here.

Although considering that Science Magazine has tried to rectify their original mistakes by creating a sequel to this list, which adds an extra 50 stars, maybe I’m not so late after all. If at first you don’t succeed and all that jazz. While the new list is something of an improvement in that it adds some more women into the mix, it also adds in a raft of all male economists and Brian May (who may have completed his thesis recently, but I’d hardly consider his stardom due to science).

The excellent Paige Brown Jarreau addressed the lack of women in the original list in some considerable style with her blog post response to Science Magazine’s list. It’s well worth a read, explains the situation far more succinctly than I could and is a fantastic guide to finding some of the many women who tweet about science on a daily basis (you can also check the hashtag #WomenTweetScienceToo). I maintain that a career in science (in all of it’s shapes and forms) should be open to both genders on this planet.  Anyone who disagrees with this… well, here’s a door. Please use it.

No, that white light isn't heaven, it's oblivion.

No, that white light isn’t heaven, it’s oblivion.

With respect to the second point earlier, considering the amount of time I’ve spent on Twitter conversing and interacting with other chemists via #RealTimeChem, I was rather flabbergasted by the omission of every single one of them, especially considering that there are some who are plenty more active than many of the Tweeters on Science Magazine’s so-called “Top 50”.

So, when I was approached by Lauren Wolf to be a member of a panel to choose 20 Chemists Worth Following on Twitter I jumped at the chance. Please check the link if you want to find some cool Chemists to follow. Alternatively, check out Stuart Cantrill’s somewhat larger list as well (you could also follow @RealTimeChem, but hopefully you already know about that one).

With the release of the second longer list and still a lack of any chemists, it does begin to beg the question…where are the social media stars of chemistry? Why doesn’t our branch of science have anyone with enough popularity (judging from the number of followers anyway) to make it on to this list? Why is the most famous modern chemist the average person on the street can name most probably a fictional meth peddler?

He does wear a hat well.

These are difficult questions to answer. Chemistry certainly has a well documented image problem in the wider mainstream media at the moment. An image where chemicals are more often than not instantly labelled as “bad” and big pharma is the equivalent of the stereotypical moustache-twirling evil villain of old black and white movies.

It might be that Chemistry seemingly doesn’t have the same sex appeal as other sciences such as physics, which can pull any number of fancy universe spanning subjects out of its bag of tricks.

Just look at that. Physicists have claimed the universe as their playground.

They’ve also got Professor Brian Cox, super star. A man who is so not a fan of chemistry he’s hopeful that the notion of chemistry will disappear forever to be replaced by his beloved physics.

How can we improve this situation? How can we ensure a chemist is included on any future lists of science’s social media stars?

We work harder. We shout louder. We show the world what chemistry means to us and what it should mean to human kind. We engage. We enthuse. We excite. We amaze.  

Oh… and we should probably all tweet a lot more. 

-The Lab Coat Cowboy-

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