SciArt, SciSocials, and Sciku

The social media, career and literary potential of scientific creative endeavors.

Photo by @dole777 on Unsplash

On July 12, ArtLab’s artists-in-residence got the chance to explore two different facets of sciart, poetry and the potential to apply their skills to both social media and potential careers.

Duke University Assistant Professor Lawrence David kicked it off. David’s research revolves around human-associated microbial ecosystems as well as the intersection of nutrition and the microbiome. His scientific research is also applied to an artistic endeavor: poetry. He discussed his website SciKu, a collection of illustrated science poetry. David began the journal in 2010 when he and friends were finishing graduate school. At the time, they were fascinated by how their lives were being distilled down into papers. For example, 5 years of research and experimenting could be easily condensed into a short manuscript. So they came up with a challenge: what if their research lives could be distilled further into something even shorter. Thus, they created SciKu with the objective to showcase science condensed into 3-line haikus. David said the project allows scientists and submitters to appreciate the creative and visual elements of science. Others in the scientific community had similar ideas. Now #SciKu has a vast number of posts on both Twitter and Instagram.

Much like poetry, social media also promotes appreciation for the distillation of science, particularly through visual medium. Karisa Calvitti, the Social Media Coordinator for VI4 and VUMC Pathology led the second portion of the workshop. Her presentation was on the intersection between science communication and social media, and focused on the platforms Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

“Twitter has a vast professional science community”, Calvitti said. “It’s really useful for conveying scientific information because of how decentralized it is; it provides a connected space to interact with people in all different fields without getting siloed into one.” In addition, it can connect scientific individuals with people outside of the science community, thus breaking barriers in communicating science. Moreover, Twitter has the potential to grow one’s professional environment, according to Calvitti.

Unlike Twitter, Instagram is less pure science-focused and more about artwork and community outreach. This platform is ideal for sciartists like the ArtLab’s artists-in-residence, because it is ideal for visually heavy fields. It can be used for sciart, graphics, reels (short videos) and informational visualizations such as the ones Calvitti and her colleagues made to promote the COVID-19 vaccine.

Separately, Calvitti described LinkedIn as the “professional version of Facebook.” “It’s a great place to not only show your work, but you can talk about what you’ve learned on a project, and challenges you’ve had and how you grew,” she said. Not only can it be a general communication tool for science, but it can be utilized as a place for the artists-in-residence to network, focus on their professional personas, and potentially obtain a career in science communication or sciart. When one Googles potential careers in these fields, the first that will pop up are jobs such as communications specialist, editor, freelance science journalist and other traditional paths. While these are all great options, Calvitti emphasized that they are not the only ones. For example, she currently works as a social media coordinator and there are other art-driven careers like graphic designer, video producer and web designer needed within the sciences.

“Even though these titles don’t scream science communication, now the industry needs those types of people to convey the science,” she said, “If you are very creative, have that niche and know how to do that kind of work, there are companies like pharmaceutical companies, universities, science publications, etc. that are now needing these kinds of people.”

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