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Charlie Houston is a senior biomedical scientist based in Glasgow. His interest in the internet and social media led him to join the IBMS's Website Committee. Here he talks about how getting involved in social media can benefit person, profession and the IBMS.
What inspired you to get involved in social media?
Since the late 90's I have spent a fair bit of time on the internet – some of which lead to me getting married. I met my wife Helen in 2000 on an internet dating site! I've always been an early adopter of new technology and welcome change that can be of personal or professional benefit. I’ve always looked upon Facebook as a means of keeping in touch with old friends and meeting new ones with similar interests. Having enjoyed Facebook for mainly personal hobbies I looked at internet based professional social media and came across LinkedIn which I found useful to develop my professional profile and meet old and new contacts. I have also used it to try and develop my career, mainly through recruitment contacts but also being available on a consultancy basis on a variety of laboratory based matters. I use Twitter infrequently.
What is involved in helping the IBMS on social media?
As I work on the IBMS Website Committee I have quite heavily involved in the Institute’s online media. But anyone can get stuck in and help out in a number of ways.
For starters I tweet or post on the IBMS social media anything that I find that is interesting or professionally relevant. I forward on useful IBMS links to my contacts and my feeds and I am also in regular contact with the IBMS website team if I spot a problem or something interesting that I feel they should promote.
It's about using social media to pass on information and promoting the IBMS as my professional body, and in turn, promoting biomedical sciences, biomedical scientists and myself!
I use social media to communicate with other professionals, this is a two way process, sending and receiving information.
What are the benefits to the profession of biomedical scientists getting involved in social media?
Social media can be a key way to position and promote biomedical science and biomedical scientists – it reaches a very wide audience and gives us another means of having a voice. Being involved in online science and healthcare groups means we can contribute to relevant debates and make sure we are heard.
I use tweets and posts alert colleagues to what is going on – for example when the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issues alerts I can post them onto my colleague very quickly and effectively. Or if there is an IBMS or government consultation the networks can be used quickly and effectively to ask people to get involved and make their views heard.
It is also very cheap. It costs nothing to join interesting biomedical science groups and feeds – or indeed to set up a group or profile yourself!
The IBMS web discussion forums are useful for feedback and updates – not just for the professional body but also for each other. It’s about all of us learning new things, swapping information and discussing issues. The more biomedical scientists joining in the stronger the biomedical science community will be.
What are the benefits to the individual of getting involved in social media?
Any biomedical scientist with an on-going interest in their career, their profession and science can learn much via social media. Of course social media can get a bad press but I find it immensely useful for communication and sharing information. My experiences of social media are nearly all positive. There’s not much negative I can think of in nearly 10 years of using it in various formats. Many people who owe me nothing and whom I’ve never met physically - have helped me on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and I am a better and wiser person for it- I have in turn done the same.
The benefits are endless but the three major ones are, in my opinion, personal development networking and communication. LinkedIn, for example, is very useful for professional networking and job finding.
It might seem a wee bit daunting and an unfamiliar place to those new to it, but give it the chance it deserves! It’s enjoyable! Get stuck in, interact with people, and share your opinions, offer help and advice. To me, it's not all about the professional aspects. Some my favourite social media contact aren’t those who constantly talk about biomedical sciences or forward links, but are those who share titbits about their lives and let their personalities shine through. Take what is of value to you.
What you enjoy about being a social media aficionado?
Personally speaking, I find getting involved in social media gives me a sense of satisfaction that I am contributing to effective communication, the development of myself and others, enhancing the service we provide – therefore benefiting patients. It also comes as something of a diversion from some of the run of the mill and day to day issues in my own laboratory.
One of the things I really enjoy is helping new and possible entrants to the profession by using social media. I feel it is really effective for this as it involves and engages with the youth of today.
How should the IBMS and its members use social media in the future?
My personal thoughts are unless the Institute embraces social media in all its forms it is in danger of losing touch with its members in particular the younger upcoming generation of biomedical scientists to whom social media is a mainstream form of communication – in some cases their only one!
Charlie Houston is a senior biomedical scientist with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde with a number of roles outside the lab in HPC partner assessment, employer-university liaison and continuing professional development. He can be found on most forms of social media including LinkedIn and his blog which he describes as a work in progress.