The use of social networking sites on the world wide web to promote public engagement in science
Snyder, Lori A.
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This study investigates how social media is used to promote public engagement in science. Key questions this study attempts to answer are: • Is the public contributing science in these discussions? • Do users of social media sites remain on-topic within the post discussion? • Are the owners of social media sites responding to the users? • Should science communicators continue to use social media or are "traditional" websites more effective? The study is based on a content analysis of 1326 comments within 50 posts on five science-oriented Facebook pages between May and June 2012. The five pages are the Discovery Channel, Science Friday, NASA, ScienceNOW, and the American Museum of Natural History. The 1326 comments were separated into eight categories designed to classify the scientific content and fundamental nature of each. It was found that only about five percent of the comments had any science content. Separate analyses for each of the five Facebook pages showed that the science content of comments ranged from a high of over 19 percent for Science Friday to a low of less than one percent for Discovery Channel. Half of all comments were directly related to the post topic, but contained no science content. Less than three percent of the comments were from the moderator of the Facebook page, indicating that the science community is rarely responding to others through social media. A comparison of traditional websites vs. social media sites found that users contributed only about one-quarter the numbers of comments via traditional websites as they did using social media.