TUESDAY, 7 JULY 2020Disclaimer: The contents of this article represent opinions and views shared on Twitter, and do not necessarily constitute peer reviewed scientific research.
With many restrictions on social mixing having been lifted across the world, one might have expected a lull in social media activity during the month of June. For those involved in science, however, this has not been the case. Instead, many causes have continued to be debated on Twitter, with this platform consistently serving as a powerful outlet for key voices involved in the practice of scientific research, communication and policy. For example, recent news of the “freeze” on H1B immigrant visas in the US has resulted in a storm of opinions on the impact it would have on scientific research. Many pointed out the severe loss of productivity and output that would result from lack of immigration to the US, whilst others chose to focus more on the impact on the people behind the science.
This is the worst thing that’s happened to US science and innovation. Banning #Immigrant scientists will lead to a devastating loss in creativity and productivity. Pretty much every lab in the US will suffer. https://t.co/xzZypmAgVn
— Prof. Akiko Iwasaki (@VirusesImmunity) June 23, 2020
i have seen SO many academics tweet about this and it is ALWAYS about the impact it will have on science, never about the impact it will have on people.
— Sanjee Baksh (@S__Baksh) June 23, 2020
Twitter also provides us with a reminder of the mental health issues being faced by many in the scientific community. Whether that be a direct result of the recent state of affairs, or longer-term issues surrounding academia, a scroll through social media shows us that such issues are commonplace in this vein of work.
I am so grateful for my lab and my PI’s allyship. My boyfriend broke down crying in his lab yesterday. Yet in his lab meeting today they have not said a single word and are discussing mouse colonies instead. They just expect him to keep conducting research at a high level. ☹️
— Kyndall Nicholas (@KyndallNicholas) June 3, 2020
I'm done with the glorification of workaholism in academia. No, it's not ok that you work double of your contract hours, nights, weekends and annual leave. Can we all just stop pretending this is normal? We are in the middle of a pandemic. There are more important things in life.
— Joana Viana (@JoanaFFPViana) June 29, 2020
Nevertheless, resources are available to those in need. Although Twitter is not necessarily a platform for psychological support, it can be useful in providing visualisations, vocalisations or contacts regarding wider issues in the world of science.
Mental health through the various stages of Academia, from undergrad ➡️PhD ➡️ Postdoc ➡️ faculty, illustrated through posters. (Finally completed the set)!
We need to talk more about #mentalhealth at universities. #itsokaynottobeokay#AcademicChatter #AcademicTwitter #phdchat pic.twitter.com/DgWjL2Zieg
— Dr Zoë Ayres (@ZJAyres) June 19, 2020
Amongst all the issues facing the academic community, many scientists are keen to remind the public that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, advising against dangerous complacency at this time. For example, a thread by Max Roser, researcher at the University of Oxford and founder and editor of Our World in Data, explains graphically why the coronavirus still looms large over the world. Google search statistics, whilst not providing empirical evidence for cases of the virus, do suggest that people are worrying over symptoms whilst in their bed at night.
Three charts on why I think we are still in the early days of the pandemic and why I'm very pessimistic about the coming months.
1/ The number of daily new cases is rising continuously in many large countries.
[Source https://t.co/IGQpgWQQqz] pic.twitter.com/XwbT7Y99N0
— Max Roser (@MaxCRoser) June 5, 2020
“Loss of smell” Google search now trending in West Virginia, Nebraska, Nevada and South Carolina. And the searches are peaking at 1 AM each night. pic.twitter.com/w04Q2PlZUR
— Tero Kuittinen (@teroterotero) June 27, 2020
All in all, while the scientific community vocalises its anxiety over the many problems at large in the world (exemplified by the behaviour of the ‘Lego Grad Student’), strange and wondrous things are still being discovered and discussed - like how ‘flying’ snakes manage to remain airborne.
Processing the current state of the world, the grad student remains in bed. pic.twitter.com/26zYL53jN7
— Lego Grad Student (@legogradstudent) June 22, 2020
Flying snakes have the wiggles. That helps them fly.
— Science News (@ScienceNews) June 30, 2020
Adiyant Lamba is a news editor at Bluesci.