Managing Science Discussions Online

Managing Science Discussions Online

New on my blog, I discuss why sociologists and other scientists should not shy away from engaging with the public about their research. The so-called “nasty effect” of online abuse was used as an explanation for why a popular science news site closed its comments section a couple of years a go. Some researchers still harbour similar misgivings about engaging with the public.I show why public outreach is a necessary part of science, and I provide some general tips for how I manage negative comments online, with a focus on the moderation team of volunteers that I work with on Google+.

I deal with the awful nonsense by having ties to other science bloggers I can privately vent with, in support of problem-solving and general good mental health checks. It also helps that for many of the other science communities that I help moderate have private communities for moderators, so we can collectively deal with problems (and with a good dose of humour!).

Regardless of what comments are sent my way, I do not have to allow these to derail my public conversations about sociology. I am influenced by The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, who only allows comments on his articles that add value to the discussion. He explains:

“The only thing I ever think about is what I would like to read. I always tell people it’s like a dinner party – and I try to host it that way. I try to keep the conversation interesting. In terms of what is the bane of all comments sections, the rude commentary, people going over the line, trolling that sort of thing, I generally follow the same rules. I always tell people: if you were in my house and you insulted one of my guests, I would ask you to leave. I don’t understand why it would be any different in the comment section.”

Read more on my blog: #sociology #socialscience