Originally, online public engagement with science tended to be one directional—from experts to the general population via news media. Such an arrangement allowed for little to no direct interaction between the public and scientists. However, the emergence of social media has opened the door to meaningful engagement between scientists and the general public. The current study examines scientists’ perspectives on the interactions between laypeople and scientists by asking questions and sharing information on social media platforms, specifically, through Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions on Reddit’s “Science” subreddit (r/science). By analyzing the content of six different r/science AMAs and surveying scientists who participated as r/science AMA hosts, our research attempts to gain a richer understanding of direct communication between scientists and lay audiences online. We had three main questions: (1) who are the participant scientists hosting r/science AMAs, (2) what are their experiences like as hosts, and (3) what type of discussions do they have on this platform? Survey results suggested that these scientists recognize the promising interactive nature of Reddit and are interested in continuing to use this platform as a tool for public engagement. Survey respondents generally had positive experiences as AMA hosts, but further research is needed to examine negative experiences. Overall, this study has significant implications for how scientists can engage public audiences online and more effectively communicate scientific findings to the general populace.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2019 Hara et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.