S8 Limbless animals varied locomotor modes & s3 teeth – a uniting force across several biologies

s8 Long Limbless Locomotors Over Land: The mechanics and biology of elongate, limbless vertebrate locomotion

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(this symposia is to be presented January 6th, 2020 in Austin. See sicb.org – Austin symposia schedule for a full list of speakers) 

What was the motivation to put together this symposia?

Limbless locomotion, particularly terrestrial limbless locomotion, has been chronically understudied for a long time.  Terrestrial limbless species are thought by some to be so unusual or different that insights into their locomotion will provide little broader insight into locomotion, but this is far from the truth.  Elongate limbless body plans are widespread in nature and frequently converged upon, with over a dozen independent convergences on functional limblessness in lizards alone.  Indeed, the combined number of species of snakes (almost 3700 species) and of limbless squamates and amphibians is similar to the total number of non-flying mammals!

Despite their lack of legs, these animals move effectively through a wide range of habitats, and have a particular advantage in cluttered or confined environments such as dense vegetation, rocky terrain, narrow tunnels, and burrowing.  While limbed animals must slow down as terrain increases in spatial complexity, limbless animals encountering increasing obstacle density can typically move faster.  Furthermore, limbless animals often employ a variety of different locomotor modes specifically tuned to particular environmental challenges, such as concertina locomotion to move within narrow tunnels or sidewinding to cross desert sands.

Limbless locomotion has elicited interest from a wide range of disciplines.  Evolutionary biologists and paleontologists seek to determine how limbless morphologies evolve across species, what selective forces lead to limblessness, and whether these evolutionary mechanisms are predictable and repeatable.  Biomechanists examine the motions, forces, and muscular control of the diverse modes of limbless locomotion, seeking to understand the benefits, drawbacks, mechanisms, control and evolution of these behaviors.  And roboticists seek to create bio-inspired “snakebots” which can harness the effectiveness of limbless locomotion for traversing cluttered terrains and confined spaces.

Interest in this field has been steadily growing since Mosauer’s Science paper in 1932, but in recent years the pace of publication has accelerated significantly.  Increasingly powerful tools and technology enable more detailed examinations of limbless biomechanics, and a combination of fossil discoveries and improved phylogenies have shed increasing light on the origins and evolution of limblessness, as well as the high frequency of convergence.  Advances in actuators and control are increasing the capability of “snakebots” to solve real-world problems (e.g. search & rescue), while biological data has proven to be a potent inspiration for improvements in snakebot control.  Conversely, increasingly capable robots are becoming a model for testing form-behavior-function relationships in biology.

What is the purpose of the symposium?

While interest in limbless locomotion is increasing and collaborative work across disciplines has yielded novel insights, many topics of interest remain poorly understood or wholly unknown and researchers from disparate fields often work in isolation.  The goal of this symposium is to identify major gaps in current knowledge and methods, to promote links between researchers across different fields within and beyond biology, and to coordinate efforts to move the field as a whole forward.  To achieve this, we have brought together faculty from a range of backgrounds to present a rich assortment of talks and to spur future collaboration and innovation. By fostering cross-disciplinary research at this crucial stage, we can accelerate the development of all fields involved.

What future directions are you most excited about?

One of the most exciting developments in their field is how improvements in instruments, measurements, and robotics can all feed into each other to allow deeper understanding.  New phylogenies which use molecular data and new techniques to resolve previously obscure relations provide us with deep insights into the evolution of these species.  New instruments such as X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology and contrast-enhanced CT scanning allow us to capture data which was previously invisible.  Robotic models can explore the consequences of alternative behaviors and morphologies either not seen in biological systems or only present in extinct species.  Even in isolation, these can be tremendously beneficial, but when used in combination via interdisciplinary collaborations, they can result in tremendous leaps in understanding.


s3 Symposia in focus: Biology at the Cusp: Teeth as a Model Phenotype for Integrating Developmental Genomics, Biomechanics, and Ecology

organized by Gareth J. Fraser and C. Darrin Hulsey

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(this symposia is to be presented January 4th, 2020 in Austin. See sicb.org – Austin symposia schedule for a full list of speakers) 

What was the motivation to organize this symposia?

The tooth as a model organ unites several fields of biology and therefore advances in the fields of tooth development, genomics, and functional ecology have been reflected in a recent surge of tooth-related research. We therefore decided that this would be a great time to showcase the diverse yet integrative biologies that use the tooth as a character for study. SICB, at its core, is a highly integrative international conference, and this therefore is an ideal venue for this particular symposium. We aimed to collect a diverse selection of the leading researchers in the field of tooth biology at a wide variety of career levels, with each participant bringing a unique approach to the study of teeth, either directly or indirectly. The focus of our symposium was to promote the exciting new developments in comparative and integrative tooth biology. This new wave of tooth biology has materialized in large part through the creative minds of early career scientists that bring a fresh assortment of tools to target important questions in the wider science of dental biology. Teeth are a vertebrate innovation and as a character unite the vertebrate clade from fishes to mammals. In addition, throughout the evolutionary history of vertebrates, teeth have been used to acquire and process food. This gives teeth a unique appeal for a model organ as it covers so many integrated fields of biology including development, evolution and trophic ecology. We therefore developed this symposium to reflect the diversity of research centered around the tooth and emergent vertebrate dentitions.

What were you looking forward to most about this symposia?

The opportunity to bring together so many tooth biologists working from such a diversity of perspectives and approaches is what we were looking forward to most. As attendees at the SICB meeting certainly appreciate: the power of integrative biology is often enhanced when we are able to learn about novel or complimentary approaches that can be used to tackle similar questions. Symposium such as ours that will all be focused on vertebrates and their teeth will allow everyone attending to gain integrative insights into cutting edge research in comparative biology. This symposium should provide an unparalleled opportunity for participants to gain knowledge about how mechanistic approaches in evolution, functional morphology, physiology, and developmental genomics could compliment each others’ research programs.

What future directions are you most excited about?

As the title of this symposium ‘Biology at the Cusp: Teeth as a Model Phenotype for Integrating Developmental Genomics, Biomechanics, and Ecology’ suggests, this collection of speakers highlights how wide-reaching and integrative the extended field of tooth biology is. So, the most exciting element of the future of this field is how far integrative collaborations can push or even break the boundaries of biological disciplines and galvanize crosscutting research. The tooth has become a central and uniting theme in biological research that links vast research themes from ecology, evolution, development, genomics and biomedical research. The tooth holds a unique position in biological research due to the fact that as a character it is a vertebrate innovation. But this character unites us all from fish to humans, and thus the conservation of development and form is major inspiration to our work as is the medical research facets of our work that offer a more direct impetus for a greater understanding of tooth form and function.

What do you hope attendees were able to take away from the Symposia?

We hope attendees come away with a more robust understanding of tooth biology and the many facets of biology that can be brought to together in dental research. Comparative tooth biology is also a field that has direct translational consequences for our understanding of human dentistry. Every day we are learning more about how processes such as tooth structure, tooth wear, and tooth replacement function all have diversified during vertebrate evolution history. This all can also provide valuable insight into human dental and craniofacial medicine. Additionally, because teeth are such an essential component of studies in disciplines as seemingly disparate as vertebrate paleobiology, ecology, and evolutionary developmental biology, an integrative understanding of dental phenotypes has far-reaching consequences for the Society as a whole. Whether attendees are more focused on basic research questions, applied human medicine, or interested in phenotypes that can be used to show the power of integration across disciplines for students in the classroom, we think this symposium will provide memorable insights for everyone.


collected and posted by SICB Journals managing editor – Suzanne Miller (icbjournal@sicb.org / iobjournal@sicb.org) 

Science podcasts you may have missed out on…

With upcoming holiday breaks, there’ll be more time for binge listening. 

Here are several podcasts you may have been missing out on. We’d love for you to tweet via @ICB_journal and share not only the link to this blog, but also tag your favorite science podcast. You might alert others in the SICB community to some we’ve been missing out on as well. 





This comedic science podcast is hosted by Emmy award winning Ali Ward, who was a science correspondent for CBS and also the host of “Did I Mention Invention?”. Shows include such topics as –

*Quantum Ontology with Adam Becker where he touches on questions like : Is anything real? How many universes are there? Do we know what dark matter is all about? Is everything a simulation being run by a quantum computer through a wormhole from a future era?

*Chiropterology with Dr. Merlin Tuttle

This one is my personal fave as Alie heads to the bat capital of Austin(where SICB WILL BE THIS YEAR FOR THEIR 2020 CONFERENCE and we’ll also have the Austin Bat refuge joining our journal booth 🙂. In this segment, Alie sits down with the legendary chiropterologist to discuss wild field stories and close calls and caves and comebacks and bat chatter and what a bat actually is and how big they get and what’s up with their smushy noses, why folks are so frightened by them, the evolution of flight, echolocation and much more.

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@maddie_sofia  to follow the host

Short wave has a wide range of topics that span from broad interest to the extremely specific interest.

In the episode, That Revolutionary Gene Editing Experiment? So far so good...we meet a woman living with Sickle Cell Anemia who is undergoing treatments utilizing CRISPR. By removing cells from a diseased woman’s body and infusing edited cells back into her body, they’re hopeful that this will cause the woman’s disease to go into remission. Listen to find out if it’s working and how it’s working.


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SICB members, Dr. Art Woods and Dr. Lynn B. Martin , are the hosts of this podcast. One of the episodes where they too touch on bats (notice an Austin centric theme here:) is Episode 5 Please don’t kill the bats! Dr. Barbara Han sheds light on how disease spreads from animals to humans. Check it out for more on her research on predicting outbreaks.

They also have some wonderful episodes covering animal signaling, reproductive selection, the social habits of dolphins, why living things evolve similar solutions to common problems and much much more!


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Want to know who’s talking about your research? The Altmetric Podcast (new this year)  is a great place to start. Host Lucy Goodchild talks to authors who’ve had their scientific papers score Altmetric numbers as high as the 3-4,000’s discuss not only their research but also what they did after they published to get the word out.

Being a dog owner, I’m partial to the  episode “We’re suckers for puppy dog eyes” where researchers studied mimicking behaviors that dogs developed, and certain breed’s pedomorphistic qualities (infant like traits) that make us want to nurture them more.

The very first episode “Understanding Climate Change” with researcher Jean-Francois Bastin discusses his remarkable paper, Understanding climate change from a global analysis of city analogues. He not only discusses why we need to plant more trees in urban areas, but also the fact that publishing the work is only a small percentage of what scientists are called on to do in this era. He gives a few pointers as to how he and his colleagues used social media and other avenues to get the word out about their work.


*This blog by Suzanne Miller – Managing Editor of SICB journals (icbjournal@sicb.org)







Women in Science – ICB last Nov. Installment

All this month, we’ve enjoyed featuring some of the outstanding women who are involved in making ICB run successfully. Below are last two participants in our Women in Science blogs. Go to their sites and or follow them on social media to see what their labs are up to. 

Morgan Furze 

Newly appointed Division of Botany representative on our Assistant Editor team 

“I am currently working on carbohydrate storage in plants.
What I’m most excited about in exploring this topic is how trees respond to stress. I’m combining tools from plant physiology with microCT imaging to quantify and monitor carbohydrate metabolism.
A pressing issue that’s most on my mind in the sciences is mentorship. Specifically, identifying the ways in which mentors can better serve as role models, support the needs of students, and encourage the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields.
www.morganfurze.com @rooting4trees

Cecilia Conaco

Newly appointed non divisional Assistant Editor for ICB 


“My lab is currently studying the impact of a changing ocean environment on various aspects of marine life. We are interested in understanding gene expression dynamics and the regulatory networks that control development, symbioses, and stress responses in marine animals, including sponges, corals, and giant clams. What I’m most excited about in exploring this topic is that, not only do we get to work with unique organisms, we also get a glimpse into the molecular mechanisms that underlie their resilience and success in different ecological niches. A pressing issue that’s most on my mind in the sciences is the potential impact of a rapidly changing ocean environment and climate on marine biodiversity. There is still so much to learn from life in the oceans. More than ever, we need concerted efforts to study and understand these organisms, with an eye towards finding effective approaches for their protection or conservation.”

Installment compiled by Suzanne Miller- Managing Editor of SICB Journals 



Women in Science- ICB ( 3rd installment)

Anjali Goswami 

Assistant Editor for ICB 

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I use high-density 3D morphometrics to reconstruct skull evolution and trait integration across vertebrates, with some recent forays into arthropods

What I’m most excited about in exploring this topic is _identifying where and why shifts in trait evolution and trait integration occur and whether there are any common drivers of these patterns, such as convergent developmental strategies or ecology.  Looking forward, I am excited to extend these data into comparative and experimental developmental data to understand how the variation we observe through deep time arises during ontogeny.

A pressing issue that’s most on my mind in the sciences is why some forms arise many times while others never evolve at all, essentially what limits variation to specific areas of morphospace and under what conditions do constraints collapse.  A separate issue for me is how do we make science a fairer system so that everyone who feels passionate about scientific research has equal opportunities to succeed in this field.





Elizabeth (Beth) Brainerd

SICB President 


I am currently using the 3D X-ray movie technology XROMM to study skeletal shape and motion in vertebrate animals.

What I’m most excited about in exploring this topic is how the diverse body and head shapes we see in vertebrates evolved. In fishes (more than half of all vertebrates) we’re finding that body shape and axial musculature may be shaped directly by selection for high-power suction feeding. In lizards and snakes we’re finding that the head and body are shaped by the demands of lung ventilation as well as feeding and locomotion.

A pressing issue that’s most on my mind in the sciences is sexual harassment. Sexual and gender-based harassment are significant barriers to inclusion of all talent in STEM fields, thus undermining the excellence and integrity of our science. A National Academies study found that 58% of women faculty and staff reported sexual or gender-based harassment in their workplaces. This is an important social justice issue, but it is also an issue that STEM is missing out on talent that could make the next big discoveries in the sciences.

@elbrainerd on Twitter



Petra H. Lenz

Assistant Editor for ICB 

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My lab is currently working on eco-physiology of high latitudes marine copepods, the small lipid-rich planktonic crustaceans that transfer energy from the microbial loop to higher trophic levels including fishes, seabirds and marine mammals, and upon which healthy fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska and elsewhere depend.

What I’m most excited about in exploring this topic is the potential for developing molecular tools that will give early warning of changes in copepod populations as the oceans warm and acidify.

A pressing issue that’s most on my mind in the sciences is global climate change and its effect on marine ecosystems. However, predicting winners and losers is not an easy task – it faces the the challenge of integrating information across physical, chemical and biological oceanography, across vast expanses of ocean, and getting a much better understanding of the physiology of difficult-to-access community members.



compiled by Suzanne Miller – Managing Editor of SICB journals


Women in Science – ICB (2nd installment)

Cori Richards-Zawacki

Assistant Editor for ICB
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My lab is currently working on projects related to the ecology and evolution of interactions between amphibians and their chytrid fungal pathogens and the role of sexual selection in speciation. Our research takes place in Panama and across the Eastern United States, with a center of effort at the Pymatuning Lab of Ecology in Northwest Pennsylvania.
What I’m most excited about in exploring these topics is: For the host-pathogen system, understanding how environmental variation and evolution due to natural selection generate variation in host defenses and thus impact the dynamics of infectious diseases of wildlife.  For our work on sexual selection and speciation, I’m most interested in understanding how learned behavioral biases, like mate preferences and male-male aggressive interactions, may facilitate the evolution of reproductive isolation by sexual selection.
A pressing issue that’s most on my mind in the sciences is the political climate’s influence on support for research on climate change and its impacts on species and ecosystems.
Twitter: @Cori_Zawacki, @RZ_lab, @PittPymLab
Website: rzlab.pitt.edu

Ulrike Müller

Editor in Chief of ICB 

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My lab is currently working on how carnivorous plants catch their prey.  We are studying bladderworts, which are arguable the fastest predators: their tiny underwater traps catch zooplankton prey within a few milliseconds by sucking them into the trap.  We study how such tiny traps can suck so hard and so fast.

What I’m most excited about in exploring this topic is that I get to collaborate with scientists across many disciplines (engineers, physicists, biologists) and continents (America, Europe, Asia). We are using a wide range of techniques (experiments, theoretical models, robotic models, field observations).

A pressing issue that’s most on my mind in the sciences is how to give everybody a fair chance to have their ideas heard and their contribution to science recognized.  As editor of a scientific journal, I hope to contribute to building a more inclusive and equitable research community.  And to get where we need to be, we need to recognize where we are.  For me as an editor this means that I use the data that journals amass about the publication process to better understand inequities, that I use my position of power to grow awareness and to be an ally, and that I work with editors and authors on building a professional climate of inclusion.



Tracy Langkilde

Assistant Editor for ICB 

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My lab is currently working on how organisms respond to environmental stressors, primarily invasive species and anthropogenic sources of noise, and consequences of such adaptations.

What I’m most excited about in exploring this topic is understanding the long-term impacts of perturbations to an animal’s environment. We often think of adaption as the end of the story, but this process fundamentally changes an animal. We need to better understand what these changes mean for the organism and the broader community in which it lives.

A pressing issue that’s most on my mind in the sciences is finding ways to make the composition of the scientific community reflect the composition of society as a whole. We are missing incredible opportunities to further science by limiting who can participate. We can and must do better. We will all benefit from doing so.

Lab website: LangkildeLab.com

Twitter: @TracyLangkilde


Compiled by the managing editor of SICB Journals – Suzanne Miller (icbjournal@sicb.org)

Women in Science – ICB

(1st installment) 

The Journal of Integrative and Comparative Biology has some amazing women involved with our journal in the editorial capacity, and also in helping promote us through social media. We’ll be highlighting those women via blogs throughout November.

Brooke Flammang

Current Assistant Editor 

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My lab is currently working on understanding the mechanics underlying fish locomotion and how morphology and performance are linked in an ecological and evolutionary context. Currently we are studying a diverse range of fishes, including remoras, walking cavefish, frogfish, molas, and skates.
What I’m most excited about in exploring this topic is our ability to experimentally measure performance in fishes and translate the fundamental properties of their mechanics to bioinspired technologies. We use really fun and exciting techniques, such as volumetric fluid dynamics, CT scanning and 3D printing, and robotic modeling to break complex systems into interrogatable units and extract first principles.
A pressing issue that’s most on my mind in the sciences is the importance of validating robotics that are used in biological research. As robotic modeling for experimental research is becoming more en vogue, it is essential to ensure that biologically relevant properties are considered in the design to be able to draw conclusions on organismal performance.
*I also wanted to add for Brooke that she is the recent recipient of the Steven Vogel Young Investigator Award – We are very proud of her:)

Vittoria Roncalli 

upcoming Assistant Editor 

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I am a marine molecular ecologist, working on zooplankters. Considering how life in the plankton is hard, my research question is trying to understand how such organisms thrive in such a dynamic environment. To do that, I adapt molecular techniques to the study of organismal physiology, in particular responses to signals and stressors in the marine environment. Understanding the limits of physiological plasticity of these organisms could help me to predict the consequences of environmental variability and changing climate on their fitness. I will start my own lab soon and I am planning to bridge the field of ecology and molecular biology investigating the effect of environment on the life cycle of copepods, with a focus on a developmental process known as diapause. What I’m most excited about in exploring this topic is try to understand the genetic mechanisms that control diapause with particular attention to what triggers the copepod to become a “sleeping beauty”. As an active member of the “-omic” field, a pressing issue that’s most on my mind in the sciences is to promote a better integration between these new powerful techniques with traditional methods used in biological oceanography with the final aim to understand the physiological ecology of our favorite bugs.

Twitter account: @VRoncalli


Stacy Schkoda

Social media – head of our new ICB Instagram account 


My name is Stacy Schkoda, and I am a PhD student at North Carolina State University studying environmental influences on bone development in aquatic models. What I’m most excited about exploring in this topic is the unknown! I love learning and working through a challenging problem, and I am looking forward to future research in the field of molecular bone biology. A pressing issue most on my mind in the sciences is ensuring a diverse body of graduate students and faculty members. Representation and inclusion produce a ripple effect in ways we may not see yet, and I hope the structure of future scientific institutions reflects diversity in our communities. Surprisingly, as an intern for the social media team, I do not have a Twitter handle, but my research is described here: https://kullmanlab.wordpress.ncsu.edu/


compiled by Suzanne Miller – Managing Editor of ICB and IOB for SICB 


Social Media – that lab partner you never knew you needed

As managing editor or both of SICB’s journals (Integrative and Comparative Biology and Integrative Organismal Biology) I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t try to urge scientists to promote themselves and their work through social media. For the last two years at the SICB annual conference, I’ve helped to man the marketing booth to raise awareness about SICB’s publications. In doing so, I’ve seen that there is no middle of the road. Professors and students alike are either all in and using social media fully to their advantage or they don’t participate in any platform. Due to how quickly not only scientific publishing, but all publishing and the dissemination of information is changing, it is my goal to persuade many more scientists to cross over the divide and begin to see that they need not avoid social media but can make it work for them.

I tend to be drawn to analogies to kick off a topic (blame it on my background as an educator). In that vein, let’s say the head of your department tells you that they’ve not seen much of anything about your lab online lately and that you really should consider taking on a lab member who can help raise awareness about what your lab is working on. They say this will help with grants that the university hopes to obtain and in recruiting prospective science majors. Given your tight time schedule and possibly an overall non-enthusiastic view of social media, you are not really game, but decide to follow suit anyway.

Once you post the position through the usual channels, two candidates make it through the initial process. They both have relatively good grades and favorable recommendations from well-known professors and are highly interested in the topics your lab focuses on. When you Google them, however, they have vastly different online profiles. Candidate 1 has none of their recent work readily available, an outdated profile on Linked In, no Twitter account announcing their publication history with accompanying links, and no Instagram account with images from recent research trips. They also have little to no evidence of their collaborations with lab-mates. Candidate 2 on the other hand has an easily accessible online record consisting of Facebook posts about their research trips and activities, a Twitter account that provides a timeline via their tweets highlighting recent publications. They even have an Instagram account with artistically photographed images that depict an in depth look at the focus areas of their research. Clearly, Candidate 2 emerges as the better choice.

In thinking about our two candidates, think of which one you might be. Though you may be someone who has been on the fence or flatly against social media participation, it is undeniable that Candidate 2 would leave a better impression. Even if both candidates had a similar interview in most other ways in terms of answers and even demeanor, it may be difficult not to choose Candidate 2 simply because as human beings, we tend to go with that which seems more familiar. You’d be inclined to believe that you have more of a handle on what Candidate 2 is about and how they might perform.

That leads me to the first benefit of being active on social media. Whether you’re prone to be all for it or staunchly against it, platforms serve to make us feel more familiar to others. Familiarity is paramount in establishing yourself today in the world of broadly published and highly cited authors. As scientists, it’s important that the readers of your work feel this kind of familiarity you’d feel with Candidate 2. This can be a factor in garnering return readers, or interest by other scientists who may want to work with you on a publication.

Aside from familiarity, there are numerous other reasons to be professionally involved in at least one social media platform. 

Another of primary importance is that in today’s political climate, in particular, there is a need to raise overall awareness about science. In July of 2019, statistics showed that 56% (4.33 billion people) of the world is online regularly. Providing these users with access to what the scientific community has to say about climate change, other environmental concerns and relevant research on organisms or health is vital. Otherwise, they’re left to be swept up in the deluge of what other communities outside of science have to offer.  Having a say, may indeed be at the top of the list when it comes to deciding to engage with social media or not.

On a more personal level, participation in social media can also serve to broaden the scope of your readership. One way to gauge this is Altmetrics, a tool that enables us to see the number of times the article has been shared, liked or commented on, and the number of tweets, amidst other, more conventional metrics.

Data shown above was generated in Altmetrics. It indicates that 127 of 193 posts of this article were from Twitter users who shared it in a tweet. 

This invaluable tool can help authors to see where their readership is coming from and possibly give insight into where to seek out collaborations in parts of the world they had not considered for further research.

Higher citations and strategic collaborations are two more at the top of the list as to why scientists should have a social media presence. For years, statistics have indicated that on average, scientific papers are read by ten people or less. This makes getting the word out about your paper all the more critical. In an article in Phys.org in April 2018, the authors stated that Twitter is one of the top ways scientists choose to get the word out about their newly published work, and there was substantial evidence that this leads to higher citations for them as a result. For those thinking of enlisting a group of speakers for a symposia in the future, platforms can help to get the word out about your topic of choice ensuring that you enlist others in the field who may have a different take on your topic, diversely rounding out your list of authors/speakers.

         When thinking about whether or not to use social media, the best question is not why but why not? If so many other top scientists have found it to be extremely helpful, couldn’t it work for you as well? I thought it would be better to hear from some scientists themselves on this instead of someone like me in the publishing industry so I recently wrote to Lynn B. Martin, at the University of South Florida, and Art Woods, at the University of Montana, who host the hit science podcast Big Biology. Both had experience with social media prior to their podcast, but have had a range of unique experiences with it alongside producing their podcast.

Art Woods had this to say, The rise of the web has profoundly affected how people communicate about everything, including science. Basically, the old, traditional ways of transmitting knowledge (lectures, scientific articles, conferences) have been eclipsed by all of the informal, decentralized, highly personalized networks that the web has made possible. These shifts have also changed the tone of science, and have altered how people expect to hear about discoveries – they want to hear about them more informally…from tweets and in conversations on podcasts. It’s fun for us as co-hosts of Big Biology to try to communicate the nuance and complexity of big ideas in biology but in a fun, conversational way.”

Art Woods (left) and Marty Martin (right) host the Big Biology podcast.


Lynn B. Martin added, “Until Twitter and the like became popular, it was more difficult to track progress and discoveries in areas outside one’s expertise.  Now, because the experts (authors) so often share their work through social media, it’s much easier to conceive projects that interlink different parts of biology, which is often the type of research that leads to major advances.  It doesn’t hurt either that so much of the general public also uses social media, which means that we scientists are in effect forced to learn to communicate better why we’re doing what we’re doing without jargon. Long ago, we should’ve learned better how to do this and engage the public more in our work.  Now, we have a mechanism to disseminate the news and the push to get good at explaining our stuff.”

Alejandro Rico-Guevara PhD, Miller Fellow at U.C. Berkeley

I also contacted Alejandro Rico-Guevara PhD, Miller Fellow at U.C. Berkeley, one of the authors of the paper on the above shared Altmetric IOB example, Shifting Paradigms in the Mechanics of Nectar Extraction and Hummingbird Bill Morphology.   He had this to offer about social media, “I firmly believe that social media is a great tool for science communication. I’ve always tried to be proactive in contacting university media offices and worked with journals to disseminate the new findings as broad as possible. Without overselling, it’s important to work hard on the pitch of your discoveries; what was exciting to you and what words you can use so others find it interesting too!”

Isaac Ligocki, ICB Social Media Team Editor

  Our own social media team coordinator Isaac Ligocki, currently at Ohio State and as of January 2020 joining the faculty at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, also added, “ Utilizing social media helps scientists to be able to clarify their conclusions and set their narrative versus leaving it open to wider interpretation.”

My hope is that I’ve managed to persuade you to try social media professionally if you haven’t already. Don’t think of it as a nebulous or irrelevant stranger you really don’t want to make time for coming into your lab. Think of it more as that Candidate 2 lab partner who you at first didn’t know you needed, but once brought in, brings to the table with them tons of resources, connections, readership of your work, the possibility of higher citations, and last but not at all least an entire online scientific community you never knew you were missing out on. I guarantee, you’ll be giving Candidate 2 their own little cubicle soon enough and within a few months, you won’t know how you ever got along without them.

The Author Suzanne Miller has been managing editor for SICB’s journals for the last seven years.


Articles for reference and further reading: 

How social media helps scientists get the message across


Science and social media


A social media survival guide for scientists


A scientist’s guide to social media