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GeoPolicy: Reaching out on Twitter – casually engage with policymakers!

GeoPolicy: Reaching out on Twitter – casually engage with policymakers!

Reaching out to policymakers and sharing your research with them can seem like a daunting task! While there are many formal outlets for engaging with policymakers (such as completing questionnaires, contributing to workshops and participating in paring schemes), there are also more casual methods that can be done sporadically and with less effort. One example of this is engaging with policymakers on Twitter.

In a 2016 social media analysis, Twitter was found to be the primary social network used by world leaders. For policymakers, social media has gone from being an afterthought, to being a primary method of stimulating citizen engagement and managing their public image. In 2011, just 34% of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were on Twitter. As of December 2017, that number is 81%. Members of the EU Commission are also largely on Twitter, including all of the EU Commissioners. Furthermore, each of the EU Commission’s Directorate Generals has its own official Twitter account.

 

So, policymakers are online… but why should you follow them?

  1. There are thousands of policymakers on Twitter within the EU alone. Following all of these policymakers would be an information overload and counterproductive. However, selecting some key policymakers working within your area of expertise is a fantastic way of keeping up with what information and research is needed.
  2. Following official EU Twitter accounts and key policymakers may give you inspiration for new research ideas, while also helping you understand how you can make your next research project more useful for policymakers.
  3. Funding! EU funding is extensive and new projects and funding opportunities are often advertised on Twitter. In addition, openings for traineeships and workshops are promoted heavily on the official EU Commission Twitter accounts.

 

Actively engaging

Following various policymakers and official accounts allows you to gain a better understanding of the policy landscape, but actively engaging will help you build or maintain relationships and ideally be seen as an expert in your field.

Communicating with policymakers through Twitter might be easier than some more formal engagement outlets, but it still requires time, perseverance and communication skills that generally aren’t used in everyday life. The rules for communicating with policymakers still apply – common language (rather than scientific jargon) should be used at all times, graphics should be simple and clear and you should be able to summarise your idea or argument in 3 sentences or less. Some more tips for actively engaging with policymakers are outlined below.

  1. Don’t just mention the official EU accounts in your tweet. While your tweet may reach a number of other people who manage the account, it is unlikely to reach individual policymakers. Instead, focus on specific people who are working on a project or policy that relates to your research. This may include high-level policymakers (such as an MEP or Commissioner), legislative assistants and policy officers. You can create different Twitter lists for policymakers working on particular issues or projects. This allows you to keep track of those policymakers you should be following more closely and those who you can include in tweets on particular topics.
  2. If you’re responding to a policymaker’s tweet on a topic relevant to your area of expertise, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and your research. This will highlight your knowledge on the issue and hopefully leave a lasting impression.
  3. When you’re tweeting about your own research, try to connect it to relevant policy issues and tag specific policy institutions and people. This enables those working in the policy-realm to see your research’s application to their own work, without having to do additional thinking!
  4. Be unique. Make your posts stand out by using infographics, pictures, short videos or links.
  5. Don’t switch off over Christmas! While some policymakers have assistants managing their Twitter profiles, many formulate their own tweets or manage their account during the weekend and holidays! So, if you want to try engaging with policymakers on Twitter, the upcoming holiday period could be a great place to start. And if you want to take a break from technology over Christmas but also want to engage with policymakers, don’t worry… You can have your Christmas pudding and eat it too! By using a content management tool such as tweetdeck, you can compose tweets and release them at predetermined times.

 

Twitter has the potential to help you share your research for policy impact but understand your limits! Most of the researchers I know already work long hours and definitely don’t have time to spend two hours per day tweeting… and that’s okay! Do what you can, try to be consistent with the amount you post and have fun!

 

Further reading

We are hiring: be our next Communications Officer!

We are hiring: be our next Communications Officer!

Do you have an interest in the Earth, space and planetary sciences and love blogging and using social media channels to communicate that passion? Then our latest job opening might be just right for you!

We are looking for a Communications Officer to work with the EGU Media and Communications Manager in maintaining and further developing media- and science-related communications between the EGU and its membership, the working media and the public at large. The officer will be tasked with (among others):

  • Manage the official EGU blog, including writing, commissioning and editing posts
  • Administer the EGU network of blogs, including division blogs
  • Manage the Union’s social media presence year-round
  • Work as a point of contact for early career scientists at the EGU office

We are looking for a good team player with excellent interpersonal, organisational, and communication skills to fill this role. The successful applicant will have an academic degree (e.g. MA, MSc, PhD), preferably in the geosciences or related scientific disciplines or in communication sciences. Candidates should also have the ability to understand and translate complex science into simple concepts and write about scientific research to general audiences in an engaging and accurate manner, as well as an expert command of English. Non-European nationals are eligible to apply.

To get a feel for what the position involves why not read this post by the current post holder, Laura Roberts Artal? Laura is happy to answer questions about what the role involves day-to-day, so feel free to contact here with questions at networking@egu.eu or on +49 (0)89 2180-6717.

The deadline for application is 5 November 2017. The expected start time for this position is January 2018.

Further details about the position and how to apply can be found here.

Feel free to contact Dr Bárbara Ferreira, the Media and Communications Manager, at media@egu.eu or on +49-89-2180-6703 if you have any questions about the position.

GeoSciences Column: Is smoke on your mind? Using social media to assess smoke exposure from wildfires

GeoSciences Column: Is smoke on your mind? Using social media to assess smoke exposure from wildfires

Wildfires have been raging across the globe this summer. Six U.S. States, including California and Nevada, are currently battling fierce flames spurred on by high temperatures and dry conditions. Up to 10,000 people have been evacuated in Canada, where wildfires have swept through British Columbia. Closer to home, 700 tourists were rescued by boat from fires in Sicily, while last month, over 60 people lost their lives in one of the worst forest fires in Portugal’s history.

The impacts of this natural hazard are far reaching: destruction of pristine landscapes, costly infrastructure damage and threat to human life, to name but a few. Perhaps less talked about, but no less serious, are the negative effects exposure to wildfire smoke can have on human health.

Using social media posts which mention smoke, haze and air quality on Facebook, a team of researchers have assessed human exposure to smoke from wildfires during the summer of 2015 in the western US. The findings, published recently in the EGU’s open access journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, are particularly useful in areas where direct ground measurements of particulate matter (solid and liquid particles suspended in air, like ash, for example) aren’t available.

Particulate matter, or PM as it is also known, contributes significantly to air quality – or lack thereof, to be more precise.  In the U.S, the Environment Protection Agency has set quality standards which limit the concentrations of pollutants in air; forcing industry to reduce harmful emissions.

However, controlling the concentrations of PM in air is much harder because it is often produced by natural means, such as wildfires and prescribed burns (as well as agricultural burns). A 2011 inventory found that up to 20% of PM emissions in the U.S. could be attributed to wildfires alone.

Research assumes that all PM (natural and man-made) affects human health equally. The question of how detrimental smoke from wildfires is to human health is, therefore, a difficult one to answer.

To shed some light on the problem, researchers first need to establish who has been exposed to smoke from natural fires. Usually, they rely on site (ground) measurements and satellite data, but these aren’t always reliable. For instance, site monitors are few and far between in the western US; while satellite data doesn’t provide surface-level concentrations on its own.

To overcome these challenges, the authors of the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics paper, used Facebook data to determine population-level exposure.

Fires during the summer of 2015 in Canada, as well as Idaho, Washington and Oregon, caused poor air quality conditions in the U.S Midwest. The generated smoke plume was obvious in satellite images. The team used this period as a case study to test their idea.

Facebook was mined for posts which contained the words ‘smoke’,’smoky’, ‘smokey’, ‘haze’, ‘hazey’ or ‘air quality’. The results were then plotted onto a map. To ensure the study was balanced, multiple posts by a single person and those which referenced cigarette smoke or smoke not related to natural causes were filtered out. In addition, towns with small populations were weighted so that those with higher populations didn’t skew the results.

The social media results were then compared to smoke measurements acquired by more traditional means: ground station and satellite data.

Example datasets from 29 June 2015. (a) Population – weighted, (b) average surface concentrations of particulate matter, (c) gridded HMS smoke product – satellite data, (d) gridded, unfiltered MODIS Aqua and MODIS Terra satellite data (white signifies no vaild observation), and (e) computer simulated average surface particulate matter. Image and caption (modified) from B.Ford et al., 2017.

The smoke plume ‘mapped out’ by the Facebook results correlates well with the plume observed by the satellites. The ‘Facebook plume’ doesn’t extend as far south (into Arkansas and Missouri) as the plume seen in the satellite image, but neither does the plume mapped out by the ground-level data.

Satellites will detect smoke plumes even when they have lifted off the surface and into the atmosphere. The absence of poor air quality measurements in the ground and Facebook data, likely indicates that the smoke plume had lifted by the time it reached Arkansas and Missouri.

The finding highlights, not only that the Facebook data can give meaningful information about the extend and location of smoke plume caused by wildfires, but that is has potential to more accurately reveal the air quality at the Earth’s surface than satellite data.

The relationship between the Facebook data and the amount of exposure to particular matter is complex and more difficult to establish. More research into how the two are linked will mean the researchers can quantify the health response associated with wildfire smoke. The findings will be useful for policy and decision-makers when it comes to limiting exposure in the future and have the added bonus of providing a cheap way to improve the predictions, without having to invest in expanding the ground monitor network.

By Laura Roberts, EGU Communications Officer

References

Ford, B., Burke, M., Lassman, W., Pfister, G., and Pierce, J. R.: Status update: is smoke on your mind? Using social media to assess smoke exposure, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 7541-7554, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-17-7541-2017, 2017.

Blogs and social media at EGU 2017 – tune in to the conference action

Blogs and social media at EGU 2017 – tune in to the conference action

With hundreds of oral presentations, PICO sessions and poster presentations taking place each day, it can be difficult to keep abreast of everything that is on offer during the General Assembly.

As well as finding highlights of interesting conference papers, lectures and workshops in the daily newsletter at the General Assembly, EGU Today, you can also keep up to date with all the conference activities online.

Blogging

GeoLog will be updated regularly throughout the General Assembly, highlighting some of the meeting’s most interesting sessions, workshops and lectures, as well as featuring interviews with scientists attending the Assembly.

The EGU Division Blogs will report on division specific interesting research and sessions during the Assembly, so you can catch up on any sessions you’ve missed!

Stay tuned to the EGU Blog Network for further coverage of science presented at the conference.

As in previous years, the EGU will be compiling a list of General Assembly related blogs (the blogroll) and making them available through GeoLog.  You can add your blog to the blogroll here.

Tweeting

Participants can keep updated with General Assembly goings on by following the EGU twitter account (@EuroGeosciences) and the conference hashtag (#EGU17). You can also direct questions to the EGU communications staff and other participants using #EGU16, or by tweeting to @EuroGeosciences directly. If you’ve got the Assembly app, you can share snippets of great sessions straight from there!

This year, each of the programme groups also has its own hashtag. If you’re in a Geomorphology (GM) session, say GM2.1, you can tweet about it using #EGU17GM, or if you’re in one of the Outreach, education and media (OEM) sessions, use #EGU17OEM – just add the acronym of the respective programme group to #EGU16! ! A full list of conference hashtags is available here, and in the programme book. Conveners are welcome to add their own hashtags into the mix too! Just let everyone know at the start of the session.

Facebook

The EGU communications staff will be advertising General Assembly sessions and will post about research being presented at the Assembly on Facebook. Just type European Geosciences Union into the Facebook search bar to find the EGU official page, and like it to receive the updates.

Instagram

For behind the scences access to the conference, including organisational snippets, chats with conference atendees and informal coverage of the science presented throughout the week, follow us on Instagram too! Will you be sharing updates about the conference on the social media platform too? Be sure to tag your posts with the conference hashtag #EGU17 and join the conversation!

And more!

While these will be the main media streams during the Assembly, you can also search for European Geosciences Union on LinkedIn and YouTube to keep up with us there!

Social media guidelines

If you do not want their results posted on any social media networks or blogs download this icon and include it in your slides or poster.

So that conference participants can embrace social media while at the same time remaining respectful of presenting authors’ work and protecting their research output, we’ve put together some social media guidelines, which you can find on the EGU 2017 website.

The EGU encourages open discussion on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and blogging platforms during the General Assembly. The default assumption is to allow open discussion of General Assembly oral, PICO, and poster presentations on social media. However, please respect any request from an author to not disseminate the contents of their presentation.

The following icon may be downloaded from the EGU General Assembly website for inclusion on slides or posters to clearly express when an author does not want their results posted on any social media networks or blogs.

You can find out more about our social media guidelines and conference rules of conduct online.

The EGU General Assembly is taking place in Vienna, Austria from 23 to 28 April. Check out the full session programme on the General Assembly website.