Twitter and blogs have in the recent years become a platform for spreading information heard at conferences. Short notes (maximal 140 characters for tweets) tell those of use who were not present at the conference what people talked about. I find this a fantastic way to keep updated at what is going on at the forefronts of science, especially as I can’t attend all conferences of interest. In return, I tend to contribute on twitter myself when I am at a meeting. also, as a principle, all of my talks are tweetable and I put my slides online for all to enjoy (unless a collaborator rather not have me do that).
However, some speakers do not want the content of their talk to be spread in this way. Some conferences have policies explicitly allowing opt-out or opt-in statements by speakers. For example, the picture shows the ‘No reporting of any kind allowed for this content’ symbol at the AGBT conference I am currently attending.
On twitter and at the bar, this leads to different reactions. Very often, people will say that it does not make sense to forbid tweeting/blogging when you are talking about the work in a room full of people. Why restrict what you are saying to the people who are present? Similarly, it would make no sense to fear stealing of your ideas or being scooped, as you anyway share them with many researchers who can go home and redo/reuse your work.
I would counter that with the following. First, tweets and blog posts retelling the talk are filtered through the eye of the tweeter/blogger. This runs the risk of misinterpretations, and – particular for the short tweets – representing the content out of context, or even simply erroneous. When talking to your audience, you are in control of, and responsible for, the content and context (even though your listeners still may misrepresent your talk later). On twitter and blogs, you have no control over what is being said. Usually, this is not a problem, but it is a real risk that speakers may worry about.
Secondly, I suspect some researcher simply not liking the idea of having what they said broadcast to the world. Fear of the unknown. Unnecessary, but understandable.
So, let’s respect the wishes of the presenters at conferences when they say ‘no’ to sharing the content of their talk to social media. I would argue, however, that saying something about how you experienced the talk would be fine (but behave, OK?). Also, when the agenda of the meeting is online, it is of course allowed to tweet the title of the talk and the name of the speaker.
By the way, I encourage all speakers with no-social media talks use open access journals for publication to compensate 🙂
Let me know if I missed an argument for or against no-social-media policies in the comments!
P.S. James Hadfield just put up a post on the subject here.
EDIT let me take away any doubt about my position: I am very supportive of tweeting and blogging conference talks (and posters) and will always encourage people to do so. There is enormous benefits to be had from sharing science on social media!