#RealTimeChem: FAQ

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2016 Edition – updated: 24th September 2016 


Welcome to the #RealTimeChem FAQ!

This is the one stop shop for information on the Twitter-based community project known as #RealTimeChem. This FAQ will, as ever, continue to be updated with new information as it becomes available. If there are any questions that you have that I ought to include here (or you’d like to get more involved in the project), then please let me know, either on Twitter via @realtimechem or by sending an email to realtimechem@gmail.com.

What is #RealTimeChem?

#RealTimeChem is a Twitter-based community project designed to encourage chemists of all kinds to actively engage with one another online by sharing what they are working on at any given time. #RealTimeChem also exists to celebrate chemistry and give the general public an insight into the real science that chemists do each day as well as the real people conducting that real science.

Real stuff like this:

And this:

In summary, there are three key ideas behind #RealTimeChem:


We are all spending an increasing amount of time online, so why not spend a little of it connecting with others in your field? The online world and Chemistry itself can sometimes feel a little isolating, especially if you’re doing a PhD, so this is a chance to be join in and feel part of the wider community. All types of chemist at any level are welcome, from students to teachers, from post-docs to old time Professors. You never know who you might connect with by sharing your chemistry via #RealTimeChem. 


This is your chemistry, your ideas, your expertise….Your best chemistry jokes. Anything relating to chemistry can be united under the #RealTimeChem banner. Once you’ve shared your chemistry, why not discover someone else’s? If something interests you, spark up a discussion. You never know where it might lead.


We all love chemistry, that’s a fact. #RealTimeChem is another way to show what chemistry means to you every day. So have fun with it, be playful, have a laugh.


#RealTimeChem has been featured in Chemistry & Engineering News and a number of times in Nature Chemistry’s blog roll (here, here and here). The project has probably been best described by @carmendrahl, formerly of C&EN, as “a virtual watercooler that enables chemists to swap stories, start discussions on journal papers or laboratory techniques and generally geek out over pictures of obscure pieces of glassware, vibrantly coloured compounds or pretty crystals. The sky is the limit (well you CAN go into space if you want to, but that’s just showing off).

The fantastic C&EN article on #RealTimeChem

The fantastic C&EN article on #RealTimeChem

What do I get out of it? Isn’t it a bit pointless?

This is a community driven project, so you get out whatever you put into it. There are plenty of studies that have looked at altmetrics and also social media as networking tools and the general consensus is that they are useful when utilized correctly.

Many people are of the opinion that Twitter in particular is a blatant waste of time, but there is no denying that it can be a powerful networking tool. It has, like Facebook, changed the way we get news and the way we interact. Twitter is great for instant reaction, far more so than any traditional chemistry networking. It only takes a few moments and you can tweet any time of the day or night.

Let’s be clear though, #RealTimeChem is not a replacement for other forms of networking such as visiting conferences. However, it can be a useful alternative when you don’t have the time or funds to trek around the world. Plus filling your timeline with chemistry and not, well, crap is always worthwhile, no?

So, how does it work?

This is an all inclusive community no matter what branch of chemistry that you partake in (including biochemistry, geochemistry, astrochemistry, crystallography, organic, inorganic, analytical, industrial etc) or what level of chemistry you are currently participating in (high school, undergraduate, postgraduate, academia, industry, person in shed etc). It also doesn’t matter what part of the world you live in, which is one of the best benefits of the Web of Interconnectedness (a.k.a the Internet).

As mentioned above, if you are a chemist (or a budding one) doing any type of chemistry and you want to share it with the rest of the world, then get yourself signed up to Twitter and tweet about it using the hash tag “#RealTimeChem” in the Tweet and you’ll find many others doing the same.

Please though only join in if you can spare the time. We understand that you’re all busy people – work commitments and getting our chemistry done must take priority over any shenanigans on Twitter and we wouldn’t want to be responsible for anyone getting into trouble.

 At the time of writing in September 2016 there have been more than 39,000 tweets containing the #RealTimeChem hash tag and the @RealTimeChem account has over 6,500 followers.


If you want to find out what is up in the community then search for the #RealTimeChem hash tag in the Twitter search bar or you can also follow the @RealTimeChem account, which is run by me. I aim to retweet as much of the best chemistry I can find each day and it never fails to amaze me what the chemists of the world are up to.


What should I tweet?

Anything that involves chemistry counts – lab work, journal reading, writing papers, teaching, demonstrating, journal publications, field work, promoting your latest paper, instrumental work, baking cakes at home etc. It is entirely at your discretion so long as it’s got some link to real chemistry and you use the hashtag. Here are some really good examples, the three “Tweets of week” from #RealTimeChem Week 2015:

All things that happen in your chemistry world can be tweeted, good or bad. I’m sure the former shall outweigh the latter, but if you are having problems, say with an experiment or finding a piece of literature then someone else might be able to help you out. Also if you see someone tweeting about something you find interesting, or you think you can help with then, please tweet back. Engagement is the name of the game.

I greatly encourage as many of you as possible to include pictures and videos (especially of great looking experiments) in your tweets because they really stand out.

Vine. Grow some chemistry vines.

Obviously, we aren’t all great directors so I recommend using the mobile app Vine (@vineapp) which you can download from the app store (if you happened to have an iPhone). Vine enables its users to create and post short videos with a maximum length of six seconds that can be shared on a variety of social networking services, like Twitter. Perfect for capturing snippets of chemistry as it happens (as this example from @ethylove demonstrates).



Obviously, when it comes to what you can Tweet, there are limits. For instance, only take pictures of things you are allowed to show. We understand certain areas of chemistry are shrouded in secrecy, particularly in industry. Don’t tweet anything sensitive and always get permission first. If in doubt, don’t tweet it.

Equally, be nice to others. Just because you’re on the internet doesn’t mean you should forget your manners.


How much should/can I tweet?


As much or as little as you want. Some participants of #RealTimeChem tweet all day or week, others just brief highlights every so often, but even if it is just one tweet then that is perfectly fine. So long as you remember to include the hash tag #RealTimeChem, so that your tweet can be easily found by other chemists in the community and is recognised as part of the project.

I will so retweet stuff that gets tweeted to @RealTimeChem as well, but I may not always see these if I’m not about, so including the hashtag is the best way to join in.

Who runs #RealTimeChem?

That would be me. You can call me Dr. Jay. I can be found under @doctor_galactic on Twitter and also @RealTimeChem. I work as a publishing editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry. I used to work as a post doctoral researcher at Imperial College in London and before that did a PhD in organic photochemistry at the University of Sussex.

Please note that while this project does not have any strict official affiliation with the RSC, it and many other chemistry organisations have given the project significant support since it started. Although, please note that this year I will also be encouraging you all to  support #Time4Chem, which is running in honour of the RSC’s 175th anniversary.

Also note that I run #RealTimeChem pretty much by myself in my spare time. I don’t get paid a single penny and I do not have any sponsorship. Despite Twitter sending me endless emails about #RealTimeChem being a business (like 8000 and counting), it really isn’t a commercial venture.

#RealTimeChem is what the chemists who participate choose to make it. It is community driven by chemists, for chemists and spreading the general love of chemistry to the rest of the world. As long as people keep choosing to tweet with the hashtag, I will endeavour to keep the project running.



Who invented #RealTimeChem?



Not me. The inventors of #RealTimeChem are @azmanam and @JessTheChemist. One fateful day, the former decided to try and determine what was in Lemishine and tweeted the results using the hashtag. The hashtag itself was coined, by @JessTheChemist who produced a storify page to follow #RealTimeChem as it happened. I subsequently became involved in the hashtag by tweeting about experiments I was running in the laboratory whilst working as a post-doc at Imperial College.

Quite how the project morphed into its current form is beyond my own comprehension, suffice to say once it started rolling it has kept on rolling and the rest is history, as the saying goes.


What is #RealTimeChem Week?

This year’s event starts on 31st October 2016 !

This is the annual weeklong event for #RealTimeChem, the Twitter based chemistry community. Its aim is to encourage as many chemists in the Twitterverse to join in and tweet about their chemistry (as well as discussing other peoples) as possible. This year will be the fourth annual #RealTimeChem Week.

Further information on #RealTimeChem Week 2016 can be found in its own dedicated post [here].   


Can I help to promote/support #RealTimeChem & #RealTimeChem Week 2016?

Yes. There are limits of course, but word of mouth is a really important thing when it comes to a grass roots community project like this one. I’m only one person and can only do so much so please pass the word about #RealTimeChem onto any chemists you know. The more chemists we get to tweet, the more interesting chemistry we get to see and enjoy!

If you’d like to take a more hands on approach with it or have project ideas, feel free to run these by me. I don’t bite.

Are there other #RealTimeChem Projects?

There were several new projects added to #RealTimeChem in 2015 to make things a little more interesting. Currently, there are no plans for new ones in 2016 due to my current commitments. The only one still active is the #RealTimeChem playlist on Spotify, which is linked below.

  • #RealTimeChemBanners – Like Journal covers for @RealTimeChem. Note that this year I have decided to commission banners from the best tweets that #RealTimeChem has to offer.
  • #RealTimeChemInFocus – Guest posts by members of the #RealTimeChem community – These aim to run bimonthly, if you want to be featured, get in touch.
  • #TheLabCoatCowboy – The comic strip adventures of a #RealTimeChemist – on hiatus – this may return (if only two editions can be called a start in the first place) in black & white.
  • #RealTimeChem playlist – tunes to #RealTimeChem by – available now on Spotify – feel free to add new songs.

In addition, you can also find some extra #RealTimeChem fun in the form of the yearly #RealTimeChem Fantasy Premier League (for all you football/soccer lovers) – this has ended again, but will likely start for the 2016/2017 English Premier League Season. I’ll let you know. 


What is the future of #RealTimeChem?


It continues to grow steadily in terms of following and recognition amongst the online chemistry community. The feed has recently passed 6,500 followers. Hopefully, it will continue to grow into something the chemistry community finds useful. Social media isn’t going away (at the moment anyway, until we all get VR helmets probably) and having a virtual water cooler for chemists on Twitter seems to be an appealing idea as the hashtag is one of the most popular on Twitter for chemistry.

#RealTimeChem will continue to be available as a hashtag to use every single day of the year, whenever you feel like tweeting something about chemistry.

As mentioned above, I plan to hold a #RealTimeChem Week event every year (life allowing) as they give people something to focus on and prepare specifically for.


But…I’ve still got questions! 

My, my you’re an inquisitive soul. If I have forgotten anything, or anything is unclear. Then sound off in the comments or contact me via Twitter or by email. I’ll do my best to answer you.

-Doctor Galactic & The Lab Coat Cowboy-


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