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Twitter chemistry conference gets a big reaction

Dr Matthew Baker

A chemistry poster conference held on Twitter is bigger than ever – four years after a University of Strathclyde researcher first organised it.

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) competition on the social media platform was initially conceived by Dr Matthew Baker, a Reader in Strathclyde’s Department of Pure & Applied Chemistry.

He had the idea after observing that, while many chemistry researchers around the world were tweeting on their work, there was little dialogue or conversation resulting from their posts.

Expanded

The first competition, in 2015, was solely dedicated to Dr Baker’s own field of analytical chemistry but its success was such – with 80 submissions and 1700 tweets using related hashtags - that it has been expanded each year since then to include nearly every other branch of chemistry.

This year’s event attracted submissions from 500 international researchers, producing nearly 10000 tweets from more than 3000 contributors.    

 Dr Baker said: “I’d been thinking about how to use Twitter but, initially, it seemed like people in analytical chemistry wouldn’t really interact on it. They were using it more as a noticeboard to post on.

“I emailed people I knew at the RSC. They took it on board and ran the first competition, purely in analytical chemistry, but each year since then has been even bigger and better than the last.

“One of the great benefits it has is that it can enable people who, for different reasons, aren’t able to attend a conference to make their research known. That can have a significant environmental benefit as well.”

Participants in the competition are given 24 hours to post their research in any of the event’s 12 categories. Cash prizes are offered in each section, along with a chemistry board game for the most retweeted poster.

Dr Baker is stepping down as chair of the competition but will continue to be a member of its scientific committee.