One hat I wear is that of a Science Communicator for one of the professional societies to which I belong. I recently received an email from the organization asking that I complete a survey. It was a bit disappointing when I started working on the survey since I expected it would focus on issues facing the food industry and how we might deal with these issues.
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Instead, the questions focused exclusively on social media and which media I was actively utilizing. Why was I disappointed? Social media definitely has a place in today’s world, but no one has shown me or provided a good explanation as to how we as members of the food industry can properly communicate good science using these tools. How do we manage to tell a good story in 280 characters or less?
Communicating good science—and getting people to listen—is a real challenge for all members of the food industry, whether one is industry, government, or academia. Why? There are many reasons that include, but are not limited to, people being averse to reading long dissertations, an inability to communicate science in terms that non-scientists and/or the general public can understand, and a general distrust of the food industry. Look at how Monsanto has been demonized for GMOs and RoundUp weed killer on social media.
We at Food Quality & Safety are committed to communicating good science to the food industry. Social media is a tool that we undoubtedly utilize, but with great care. We certainly do not want to create a situation where issues may be taken out of context, nor do we want to tell a story that fails to answer questions that are essential to properly understanding the topic being addressed. Partial or incomplete answers can create even greater problems (“What are you trying to hide from us?”). Look at the brouhaha created months ago with the redactions to the Mueller Report—not that we want to dabble in politics. We need to properly communicate the whys, wherefores, whats, and whens, and that simply cannot be done in 280 characters. So, gentle reader, if you take to Twitter or some other form of social media to communicate science or your thoughts and opinions on food science, food safety, or food quality, do tread carefully.