Many people would question scientists for using Instagram. Recently, a science magazine editor from fanexplosion.de criticized scientists for using Instagram to conduct outreach and share their research findings. The editor argued that scientists (especially women) should not engage in online outreach unless formally approved and acknowledged by their respective academic institutions.
The editor stated that he came to learn that #scicomm is used on Instagram by female scientists to push for correction of gender disparities. He went on to say that many good things come out from the works of many female scientists who use Instagram.
However, the editor was disturbed that those efforts by female scientists were celebrated as a way of correcting the deeply structured and long-held forms of exclusion and discrimination against female scientists. He wondered whether their efforts would one day be directed to advocate for policy amendments in government and academic institutions.
Scientists agree that academic and scientific institutions should reward and recognize online science outreach. However, these institutions should not appear like they are pushing the efforts of scientists unfairly and unequally to disadvantage minority scientists.
Many people criticize the efforts and time spent by scientists in expressing themselves and sharing science information on Instagram because they don’t understand why scientists do this or why it matters to scientists.
Scientists can draw motivation from science bloggers who communicate science to laypeople. In doing this, scientists practice their communication skills, connect with other scientists, and share their research using social media platforms.
Instagram offers an opportunity for scientists to share their stories exclusively using images and videos. This can bring change in science and academia as well as advocate for an important cause in science. Instagram is a popular social media platform, which, in turn, helps popularize science.
Instagram posts are capable of changing science-related gender stereotypes. The increase in the number of female scientists on Instagram helps to increase female representation in science, which can positively counter gender stereotypes.
Scientists who are on Instagram play a significant role in changing the gender stereotypes and public perception about scientists, which is an added advantage to the scientists who would want to share their experiences online.
A research done by a scientist using the hashtag #ScientistsWhoSelfie revealed that social media users support and criticize scientists on Instagram in equal measure.
Those who supported the scientists argued that science is exciting and fun, and therefore they should share with communities through Instagram.
So why do scientists prefer to use Instagram to connect with communities? The answer is simple: to communicate science widely.
Scientists are motivated by the desire to connect with the public, bring research closer to people, and build a community around themselves. They want to practice their communication skills by sending photos and videos to show how knowledge is created, expressed, and shared.
In the process of sharing and expressing themselves, they change negative gender stereotypes and change public perceptions about scientists. The public will readily understand who is a scientist and how they can become scientists too.
People should not criticize the efforts of scientists (especially female scientists) on Instagram for failing to end exclusion and discrimination in science. Scientists should be allowed to do what they like and to express themselves on Instagram to create a greater community of scientists and enable minority scientists to have a platform to express themselves. Scientists on Instagram should be celebrated.