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June 6, 2012 / caitlynzim

All A’Twitter: How Social Media Aids in Science Outreach – Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Survey Design

The goal of my survey was to question the scientists and science-oriented
institutions using social media and determine how they are successful. I wanted to
know if these groups of people had rules that governed their use of social media,
what social media sites they use, what value they find from social media and any
other thoughts they had concerning social media. I aimed to use this information to
draft a set of best practice uses for social media – a set of guidelines that would
assist scientists and scientific institutions alike with using social media.

Another aspect of my survey was to determine answers to why some scientists and
scientific institutions are not using social media sites, whether or not they could be
convinced to start using these sites and which sites they would use first. Before
designing the survey I compiled a list of scientists and scientific institutions that I
would send the survey to when completed. I made sure to include people and
institutions that did not use social media so that I could split the survey into two
sections: one for social media users and one for non-social media users.

I first took the time to develop definitions for terms I would use within the survey. I
defined “Social Media”, “Institution” and “research group” to make sure respondents
would have the same understanding of these terms in order to answer the questions
with directly comparable knowledge to start off. I gave definitions at the beginning
of the section they pertained to – “institution” and “research group” definitions were
only used for the scientific institution survey.

I began drafting the survey by covering the basic demographic areas I wanted to
cover. Age, field of study, line of profession, gender, general exposure to social
media, whether these people use social media for personal use, and how frequently
they use social media for personal use were all formatted into questions and added
to the beginning of the survey. I included the same demographic questions in both
surveys to get a base of knowledge on the people managing institutional social
media accounts. Most questions had a “prefer not to answer” or “other” option in
order to give respondents the freedom to share more or less information than

For the independent scientist version of the survey, the next section dove into that
scientist’s use – or lack thereof – of social media for scientific purposes. I split
respondents, using skip logic, into two groups: those that used social media to
promote scientific research and those that did not. To the respondent who did use
social media for this purpose, I further asked what sites they used, if they read blogs,
if they track statistics on their sites, if they took time to respond to comments and if
so, how much time they took to respond. I also asked what was the biggest reason
they started using social media, if they followed any self-imposed rules for social
media use with examples and what was the largest value they felt they have gained
from using social media.

For the scientists that answered they did not use social media for scientific
purposes, I asked how social media made them feel, what the biggest reason was
that they did not use social media, what sources of help could encourage them to
begin using social media and if they could be encouraged, what sites they would
most likely begin to use. I asked every respondent if they have any additional
information to share concerning social media use for science outreach.

I designed a separate survey for scientific institutions using – or not using – social
media for science outreach. I targeted individuals that managed social media
accounts for an institution, work project or research group and people that were
employed by institutions that held potential for using social media. I began with the
standard demographic questions and then asked whether or not the institution that
person was employed by supported social media use.

To the respondents that answered yes, I asked if their institution required the use of
social media and detailed questions regarding whether or not theirs was a
structured process one had to go through to obtain a social media account and how
involved that process was. I then designed questions targeting the amount of
involvement that the institution takes after the social media account is created, what
sites the institution or research group uses, whether they use web statistics
software to track analytics or any other means of tracking success and if they took
time to respond to comments. Lastly, I made sure to ask whether or not the
institution enforced rules or guidelines on social media use with examples.

To the respondents that answered no to social media use, I asked if the institution or
research group had social media accounts that are currently sitting inactive,
whether or not the research group or project would apply for an account if the
option were available, and whether or not the person believed that social media
would benefit his institution’s or research group’s outreach efforts. I also designed
questions to determine what sites the group would be most likely to use and what
kind of support from the larger institution would help encourage social media use.
Lastly, I again asked both groups if they had any additional thoughts to share
concerning social media use for science outreach within a scientific institution.


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