2013 CTSI Annual Pilot Awards to Improve the Conduct of Research

To facilitate the development, conduct or analysis of clinical & translational research

UCSF Social Media Boot Camp for Scientists

Proposal Status: 


The UCSF Social Media Boot Camp for Scientists (official name to be considered based on comment received) is designed to help researchers explore social media as a tool to achieve various goals, including wider exposure for their research, connecting with potential funding opportunities, cultivating collaborations, and increasing the impact of research, to name a few.

A NatureJobs blog post, Social Media Tips for Scientists, puts it well:

For many scientists, the thought of spending time on social media sites is distinctly unappealing. To some it’s just a question of time: why add to that to-do list which is already long enough? For others it’s more to do with social media itself, finding the idea of sharing thoughts and ideas with the whole world pointless or self-indulgent.

“If that sounds like you, it might be time to reconsider your options – social media includes much more than the usual suspects like Facebook and Twitter, and there are even sites dedicated to academics. Indeed, a vast number of scientists are using social media for tremendous gains – whether that be forming new contacts and collaborations, sharing ideas, communicating science, inspiring others or just entertaining them. Why not join them?”

A series on Science Marketing featured in Nature Materials notes:

Today, researchers have to make their publications stand out from the stack of nearly 800,000 science and engineering manuscripts that are published each year, recent PhD graduates and postdocs face historically low employment prospects in academia, and principal investigators compete over shrinking government funding.”

Beyond that, researchers are noting that the unique aspects of social media are changing the way science is talked about, and scientists have even noted that social media tools help to clarify thinking, demystify the scientific process, and spark new ideas.


The UCSF Social Media Boot Camp for Scientists will:

  1. Offer useful information about social media specifically targeted at scientific researchers and the academic community;
  2. Address the challenges, myths and potential misconceptions about social media within the scientific community;
  3. Support researchers in developing individual goals for social media, identifying tools that meet their needs, and establishing a social media presence;
  4. Support community building among those within the UCSF campus community who are actively engaged in social media;
  5. Create a “starter kit” and related resources for other academic institutions interested in a similar effort;
  6. Develop a publicly available online resource featuring all UCSF Social Media Boot Camp for Scientists sessions;
  7. Launch a social media consultation service as part of CTSI’s Consultation Services program, which already offers expert advice for researchers in 18 subject areas.


The CTSI Communications team (Communications Director John Daigre, and Communications Manager Nooshin Latour) will lead the effort to establish a Planning & Implementation Team that includes UCSF communicators, researchers already active on social media, other universities, external Bay Area companies involved in social media, and others. UCSF University Relations has agreed to be a primary partner in this effort. Additionally, an important component of the project will be to enlist UCSF researchers to share their personal experiences, challenges, and successes involving social media.

All related events will be free and open to all at UCSF (ideally events will be available via webinars or similar for a broader audience).

The format of the Social Media Boot Camp for Scientists will be finalized with input from the Planning & Implementation Team. Events may be organized into one primary event (i.e. a one-day boot camp), or spread out over several months depending on feedback from organizers and partners.

Will consider piloting with other groups, such as K Scholars, as suggested in comments.

Examples of potential types of presentations and panel discussions:

  1. Marketing for Scientists: Thinking Beyond Self Promotion
  2. Understanding the Social Media Landscape
  3. Demystifying Social Media
  4. Social Media 101: Getting Started
  5. Twitter: It May Be More Than You Think
  6. Social Media Rules of Engagement: Risks and Rewards
  7. Social Media Advice for Physicians
  8. Making the Most of Videos and Podcasts (UCTV, iTunes, etc)
  9. Your Online Profile: LinkedIn, ResearchGate, UCSF Profiles and more
  10. Social Media Networking: What Tools Are Right for You?
  11. Academic Blogging
  12. Speaking with One Voice: Integrating Your Social Media Efforts
  13. The Future of Crowdfunding Science
  14. Altmetrics and Non-Traditional Research Impact Measures
  15. Using Social Media for Clinical Research Studies (suggested via commenting)
  16. Connecting with Other Researchers vs. The Public (suggested via commenting)
  17. Smart Social Media: Tools for Better, Faster Communication (suggested via commenting)


The UCSF Social Media Bootcamp for Scientists will:

  1. Support researchers’ efforts to achieve their individual goals (including career development, as noted in comments);
  2. Support community building on campus;
  3. Provide ongoing support (i.e. videos, consultation service) available to researchers interested in social media;
  4. Support amplification of UCSF’s brand as a preeminent health sciences innovator;
  5. Provide tools for other institutions to use in the development of similar events;
  6. Strengthen UCSF ties with external partners (i.e. Bay Area companies).

Metrics for Success: (TBD based on finalized event format)

  1. Participation of faculty/staff (~250+)
  2. Collaboration with UCSF faculty active in social media (~10+)
  3. Collaboration with campus groups (~10+)
  4. Collaboration with other universities (~1+)
  5. Collaboration with Bay Area companies (~3+)
  6. Satisfaction survey (75%+ satisfied)
  7. Other metrics TBD

Proposed Budget:

A proposed budget of $19,500 includes costs for coordination, meeting space, recording events, printing, promotion, incentives, guest speakers, etc.

Potential Collaborators:

- UCSF University Relations (confirmed via comments)

- UCSF Library (confirmed via comments)

- UCSF School of Medicine

- UCSF researchers active on social media (Bradley Voytek confirmed via comments)

- CTSI Online Learning (as suggested in comments)

- Other campus groups via UCSF Communicators Network

- Bay Area companies working with Social Media

- Other academic institutions


Great idea! Would love to see the active involvement of researchers who use social media as a central part of the development of this initiative. Examples of possible parters include Judy Tan, Bradley Voytek, Aaron Neinstein, Matt Cooperberg, Ken Covinsky, Urmimala Sarkar, Paul Abramson, Bob Wachter.


The UCSF Library may also be a good partner on this; their The Better Presenter series is analogous in many ways.

Thanks, Anirvan. We would definitely involve researchers who are actively involved in social media, and your suggestions are great (and I've already been in touch with some of them).

Thanks for thinking of the Library, Anirvan. We are definitely interested in this project.


The recent Synapse article about the Journal Lab highlights some of the possibilities for social media to facilitate conversations about research. (http://synapse.ucsf.edu/articles/2013/02/20/startup-ucsf-journal-lab-cou...) And we see growing interest in tools like Mendeley etc. 


We are always interested in projects that propose new ways to interact with the published literature and that promote collaboration. 


And we also see this as an opportunity to further our own understanding of how researchers use and interact with the literature.


Sorry - I did not mean my comment to be anonymous. Gail Persily from UCSF Library wrote the comment above.

Thanks for your comments, Gail. You make a really good point about also using this as an opportunity to better understand how researchers use and interact with the literature. I'm glad to hear you're on board and look forward to collaborating.

I think there is real value in this proposal. I use Journal Lab and think these type of tools are great for researchers. A potential improvement to your proposal would be to stress how social media tools, such as journal lab, are not adding to the to-do list, but rather replacing other items. We all have to read literature already, these tools just make it faster and more productive.

Thanks for brining us up! The Journal Lab team would love to be involved here. This may be covered under existing topics, but I'd love to see a focus on social media as a meaningful source of information as well as a way to disseminate it. Used correctly traditional social media and emerging tools like Journal Lab, Figshare and Impact Story can improve people's ability to find relevant papers, assess which methods to use, discover potential collaborators, etc. With the increasing deluge of information out there, setting up a good information sources and filters is a vital skill.   

Nice idea John. I am curious to know about any expressed interest as of yet and if there are specific groups that may benefit to piloting these ideas? Fellows, K Scholars etc. 

Thanks for your comment, Courtney. I'm continuing to connect with UCSF researchers active on social media and other communicators on campus to include them as collaborators in this effort. And I like your idea of possible pilot efforts with target groups such as K Scholars. Targeting various groups (i.e. those who have never used social media; those who use it only for personal interactions; those who may use only one social media tool; those interested in learning more about integrating various tools, etc) will be a focus of the boot camp.

Love this idea, especially giving best practices and practical incentives for participation.  It would be a terrific way to encourage engagement AND start people off with ready made compliance with UCSF identity standards/social media guidelines.  Seems like the most common questions are ʻhow do I find time?ʻ ʻwhat do I have to say?ʻ ʻ how do I start?ʻ  and most importantly ʻwhat is the benefit to me or UCSF?ʻ  - your outline above would address those beautifully.

Thanks, Karen. I'm looking forward to having you as a partner in this effort.

Karen's totally on spot here. This is a great proposal and I really like the idea of a systemic, smart, rational approach to communicating the pros and cons of social media with UCSF staff, faculty, and researchers. A lot of folks are using these tools anyway, so having a conversation about what the future of this kind of communication means for science is very important.

Thanks, Bradley. I look forward to working with you and other researchers who are active on social media as we develop this project. John

Sounds like a great project - we are already seeing the early adopters jump online, but I hope the campus can come together to offer more counsel for others while balancing the individual and organizational benefits.

Hi John,


This is a really neat idea, and I'm excited to see others thinking about how scientists can reach out to the community. It would also be interesting to address the differences between how research connect with other researchers and how they connect with the lay public. 

Excellent idea. Consider collaborating with the CTSI Online Learning Program to produce training modules.

Another great focus area for this proposal would be in career development and exploration. You touch on this with the reference to LinkedIn, but this is a major 'pain point' for senior graduate students. ~90% will not have academic careers, yet do not start to explore their career options till ~6 months prior to graduation. Incidentally, students would make a great demographic for testing social media usage in research and science.

Michael, you bring up yet another potential benefit of social media. Thanks...I've incorporated this suggestion into the proposal.

You have identified a critical, important need that is not readily recognized by scientists, faculty, or other scholars.  Too many are "stuck" in an "older age" of communication, being only slightly faster than snail-mail.  Getting them "unstuck" is an important goal, and may be a lot harder than one would expect (or hope).

   My proposal (Testing new Web-based software for increasing the speed of knowledge creation from translational and inter-disciplinary projects) fits in directly with this effort, where we are creating software to make it easy for academics to create highly-moderated Blogs directly related to their academic goals and results.  So I would hope to be able to contribute to your presentations, and to any compilations of resources that you create.  As you learn what wording and presentation "works" with academics, I want to know that, too.  Similarly, my

proposal seeks to find out what presentation is most effective in recruiting CTSI K Scholars, Fellows, and PostDocs to creating their own Blog; this can feed into your presentation of Blogs. 

  Now an important critique:  As an Academic, I am TOTALLY TURNED OFF by the words "Social Media".  I've kept off of Facebook and Twitter because of both time, and the mis-use that has occurred via these media.  So, your title does NOT catch my interest.  Here is where some brainstorming is needed.  What about "Scientific Media"  or "Online Media directed to scientific goals" or "Networking among scientists using Web-based Media" ?  I would gladly help with this.

  The terminology is important. In my propsal we call a scientifically-oriented Blog a WebCompendium (which we hope academics might want to author or contribute to).  We say that a WebCompendium automatically creates a "community of like-minded scholars from which collaborations and job-offers might arise".  The "collaborations" are of interest to established researchers, and "job-offers" are of interest to those in training. The "Like-minded scholars" term was the best that we thought up, but by brainstorming with you, we might find an even better description.  Alas, little details like this can be important when trying to catch the "attention" of those that would benefit!! 

  Another question arises as to whether one can DIRECTLY use Media AS-IS, or whether there needs to be an adaptation of a given OpenSource Media to make it more easily useable, or in some other way fit the needs of specific scholars.  Indeed, perhaps some of your early Webinars, Seminars, etc. might be essentially "Focus Groups" from which you could ascertain what keeps scholars from NOT using Media.  Then, the susequent presentations could be based upon recruiting scholars to use these modified-forms of Media.  I'm sure that I would be turned off by being told about Media that has flaws when used by scholars/academics.  I'm enough paranoid about this, that I'm trying to find the flaws in WebCompendia (using my proposal) BEFORE releasing the software.

  Finally, I don't think you have addressed the issue of the AGE of the Scientists that you are trying to influence.  Those who are young enough to have never lived in a world without an Internet/Web may have different views about Media, as compared with Emeriti that still have trouble with a Browser.  So, some part of your studies might address this directly.  Again, Focus-Groups of different ages might be enough.

   This project melds nicely with my project, and I hope we can collaborate in both projects.  A win-win, clearly.

Thanks for your detailed feedback, Don. You've made some good points, and I'll incorporate into the proposal.

I've free-associated about my reaction to the term "social networking".  "Networking" is good, and essential for every scientist.  But "social" brings to mind Chairpersons, Deans, and Chancellors who booze-up the rich for BIG money to support good sounding phrases, but not detailed research.  Clearly I am VERY biased!!  But those are my associations. 

Great idea, John! There is definitely a need out there for this type of resource and one that I anticipate getting a lot of interest from not just faculty but staff as well. I particularly like the “Starter Kit” idea. Providing tools, templates, and step-by-step guidelines are always helpful to teach to the masses. You've highlighted some great topic areas. You might want to consider adding an area (at least for researchers/investigators) that discusses how to use social media for clinical research studies. We get asked that question a lot – what can/can’t we do or say on social media, where does the line stand on being informational vs. creeping into patient recruitment space. Many researchers get concerned about patient privacy etc., and are hesitant to use social media as a tool to promote research studies. Currently there is no “official” established FDA guidelines on social media, but there are tips and things to be aware of when considering using social media in that way. 

Tracy, great point, and your understanding of using social media for clinical studies will be very helpful in this effort. I've added this as an area of focus for the proposal.

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