As a plant grows, it moves cellular material from its version of manufacturing sites to the cell wall construction zone. Transporter proteins, called motor proteins, are thought to move these cell wall cargo via a complex highway system made up of microtubule tracks. The position of these tracks must be stabilized so that cargo are delivered to the correct locations.
Glyphosate is a widely used broad-spectrum herbicide that targets both broadleaf plants and grasses (dicots and monocots). This recent work aids our understanding of adaptive evolution in amaranth plants and has implications for optimizing pesticide use in the environment.
Last April I joined the Global Plant Council as a New Media Fellow along with Sarah Jose from the University of Bristol. The GPC is a small organization with a big remit: to bring together stakeholders in the plant and crop sciences from around the world! As New Media Fellows, Sarah and I have have assisted in raising the online profile of the GPC through various social media platforms. We wrote about our experiences in growing this blog and the GPC Twitter and Facebook accounts in the The Global Plant Council Guide to Social Media, which details our successes and difficulties in creating a more established online presence.
Why do it?
I chose to apply for the fellowship during the third year of my PhD. Around this time I had started to consider that perhaps a job in research wasn’t for me. It was therefore important to gain experience outside of my daily life in the lab and field, explore possible careers outside of academia and of course to add vital lines to my CV. I still loved science, and found my work interesting, so knew I wanted to stay close to the scientific community. Furthermore, I had always enjoyed being active on Twitter, and following scientific blogs, so the GPC fellowship sounded like the perfect opportunity!
I think I can speak for both Sarah and myself when I say that this fellowship has been one of the best things I’ve done during my PhD. Managing this blog for a year has allowed me to speak to researchers working on diverse aspects of the plant sciences from around the world. My speed and writing efficiency have improved no end, and I can now write a decent 1000 word post in under an hour! I discovered the best places to find freely available photos, and best way to present a WordPress article. Assisting with Twitter gave me an excuse to spend hours reading interesting articles on the web – basically paid procrastination – and I got to use my creativity to come up with new ways of engaging our community.
Of course going to Brazil for the Stress Resilience Symposium, GPC AGM and IPMB was a highlight of my year. I got to present to the international community both about my own PhD research and the work of the GPC, Sarah and I became expert camera women while making the Stress Resilience videos, and I saw the backstage workings of a conference giving out Plantae badges on the ASPB stand at IPMB. It didn’t hurt that I got to see Iguassu Falls, drink more than a few caipirinhas and spend a sneaky week in Rio de Janeiro!
Working with the GPC team has been fantastic. I learnt a lot about how scientific societies are run and the work they do by talking to the representatives from member societies at the AGM. The executive board have been highly supportive of our activities throughout. Last but not least, the lovely GPC ladies, Ruth, Lisa and Sarah have been an amazing team to work with – I cannot thank you enough!
I have now handed in my PhD, left the GPC, and moved on to a new career outside of academic research. I’m going into a job focused on public engagement and widening access to higher education, and have no doubt my GPC experiences have helped me get there. My advice if you’re unsure about where you want to end up after your PhD? Say “yes” to all new opportunities as you never know where they will take you.
Thank you the GPC! Hopefully I’ll be back one day!
Here at the GPC we love social media. It provides a fantastic platform upon which we can spread awareness about our organisation and the work we do. Since Lisa Martin’s appointment as Outreach and Communications Manager in February of this year, and the New Media Fellows two months later, we have expanded our online presence and are reaching more people than ever before. We still have a way to go, but here are a few things we’ve learnt over the past year that might provide you with a bit more social media know-how.
- Tweet, tweet, and tweet some more
To increase your following as an individual try to produce maybe one or two good tweets everyday. If you’re tweeting on behalf of an organization and have more time or people power, 5–8 tweets a day should be your target.
Our Twitter following has grown rapidly over the past year. We had 294 followers on Twitter in September 2014 and now have over 1500! Much of this has been down to there now being four of us maintaining the account rather than Ruth Bastow (@PlantScience) on her own.
The more you tweet, and the better you tweet, the more followers you will get. Things move fast in the Twittersphere, so just a few days of inactivity can mean you drop off the radar.
- If your followers won’t come to you, go to your followers
Decide on who you want to connect with, find out which social media platform they se most, and set yourself up!
As a global organization we want to connect with all our members and plant scientists around the world, so we need to use different means of communication to do this. In April 2015 we set up a Spanish language Twitter account with Juan Diego Santillana Ortiz (@yjdso), an Ecuadorian-born PhD student at Heinrich-Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany, who translates our tweets into Spanish.
Of course Twitter is not universally popular, and our main following seems to come from the
UK and US. To connect with those choosing to use different communication platforms, New Media Fellow Sarah Jose set up a GPC Scoop.It account in September 2015. Around this time we also set up a GPC Facebook page after many of our member organizations told us this was their primary means of connecting with their communities. Although relatively new, this page is slowly gaining momentum and we hope it will provide a great outlet for conversation in the future. Find out about which of our member organizations are on Facebook here.
If there’s a site you use to stay up to date with science content that we don’t have a presence on, do let us know and we will look into setting up an account!
- Generate your own content
Ultimately, the best way to expand your reach online is to generate your own content.
The GPC blog was started in October 2014, and in its first 14 months of life received an average of 142 views per month. However, since Lisa, myself and Sarah started working with the GPC, we have been generating one blog post every week, with the result of our monthly views shooting up to almost 700 views per month since May.
This just shows that generating interesting and regular content really does work in terms of increasing reach and online presence. All these blog posts have also contributed towards a growing following on our various social media sites over the past six months.
If you want to write for us, please send us an email or get in touch on Twitter! We are always looking for contributions from the plant science community. Perhaps you’ve recently attended a scientific meeting, are doing a really cool piece of research, organized a great outreach activity or have seen something relevant in the news. Whatever it is, we want to know.
We’re also happy to write about the GPC for your blog or website, so if you would like us to contribute an article, please get in touch!
- Cover as many platforms as possible
Try to have a global presence across as many platforms as you think you can maintain, although an inactive account on any social media site won’t do you any favors, so don’t take on too much!
I’ve already described our presence on Twitter, Facebook, Scoop.It and the blog, all of which help make our organization accessible, however people want to use social media.
In addition to this we of course have the GPC website, and Lisa sends out a monthly e-Bulletin providing a summary of all the information published on the website for that month. Anyone can sign up here to stay up to date with our activities, and it’s free!
In a bid to further reach out to members that perhaps don’t engage with social media (yet!), Lisa wrote this article explaining what the GPC does and sent it out to be published by our various member organizations.
Confession time, this isn’t really a helpful hint on how to use social media, but Plantae is so good it deserves a section all on its own!
We are hoping Plantae, set up by the GPC in collaboration with the ASPB, and with support from the SEB, will be the digital ecosystem for the plant science community. It will provide a platform for plant scientists to collaborate with one another, network, and access journals, advice and jobs. You can read more about Plantae on our blog, here.
It’s now in beta testing and you can sign up to give it a go at http://www.plantae.org. Let us know what you think!
The content of the Global Plant Council’s Annual General Meeting was summed up by outgoing Chair Professor Wilhelm Gruissem’s opening remarks: “We have made a lot of progress and accomplished many things, but we still have much work to do”. With many exciting initiatives in the works, the GPC AGM looked back at a year of success and forward to even greater things to come.
The GPC has been working with the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) to create Plantae.org, a digital ecosystem for the plant science community. It will serve as a resource hub and networking platform, with news, information, funding and job opportunities, educational materials and outreach resources all in one place. For more information, read GPC Outreach and Communications Manager Lisa Martin’s post about Plantae here.
If you would like to register to become a beta tester for Plantae and give valuable feedback on the way the system works, sign up at www.plantae.org. Plantae is due for full release in 2016.
We also teamed up with the Gatsby Charitable Foundation’s Plant Science Tool for Research-Engaged Education (TREE), an online teaching tool providing everyone with inspirational educational resources from the research community. Thanks to our international members, the GPC has begun to translate these resources into other languages to make them more accessible to lecturers, teachers and students around the world.
A big thank you to GPC intern Maura Di Martino, Professor Edith Talensik (Argentinean Society of Plant Physiology/Sociedad Argentina de Fisiología Vegetal, SAFV) and Marília de Campos (Portuguese Society of Plant Physiology/Sociedade Portuguesa de Fisiologia Vegetal, SPFV), who translated four free-to-access TREE research lectures into Italian, two into Spanish and two into Portuguese.
We’ve also collaborated with the popular Teaching Tools in Plant Biology, run by the ASPB, to translate materials into Portuguese with the help of Drs Nelson Saibo, Ana Paula Santos and Professor Cândido Pinto Ricardo of the SPFV.
Diversity Seek (DivSeek) is a community-driven, science-based initiative that aims to unlock the potential of crop diversity stored in seed banks around the world. It is jointly facilitated by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (FAO), the CGIAR consortium, and the GPC.
During 2015, over 50 partners came together to officially launch DivSeek and bring together large-scale genotyping and phenotyping projects, computational and data standards projects. Our aim is to establish DivSeek as a common umbrella to connect and promote interactions between these activities and establish common state-of-the-art techniques for data collection, integration and sharing. This will improve the efficiency of each project by eliminating redundancy and increasing the availability of data to researchers around the world. Read more about the project here.
In connection with the DivSeek initiative, the GPC is conducting a landscaping survey of large-scale genotyping and phenotyping projects linked to crop diversity around the world. If you’re involved in a project of this type, which we might not know about, please get in touch!
Malnutrition is a major global problem that may be tackled in part by the development of crops with improved nutritional value. There are several international projects underway attempting to do just that, and the GPC’s Biofortification initiative was established to act as an advocate for this research, identifying gaps in the current programs and liaising with key stakeholders to ensure major nutritional needs will be met by a coordinated approach.
Last year’s GPC Biofortification Forum meeting generated a set of 10 recommendations, which has been drafted into a white paper and will be finalized by the end of the year. This document has already drawn attention from a number of stakeholders interested in working with the GPC.
Just a few days before the GPC AGM, we teamed up with the Society for Experimental Biology (SEB) to hold a Stress Resilience Forum in Iguassu Falls, Brazil. The event brought together experts from around the world, representing a diverse range of research organizations. The three-day meeting generated a lot of exciting discussion which will be translated into a forthcoming report, establishing GPC as an integrator and facilitator in the field of stress resilience in crops.
Welcoming our new Executive Board
From the 1st November 2015, we welcomed a new Excutive Board to provide leadership and strategic direction for the GPC:
Chair: Barry Pogson, Australian Society of Plant Scientists
Vice-Chair: Ariel Orellana, Chile’s National Network of Plant Biologists
Treasurer: Vicky Buchanan-Wollaston, Society for Experimental Biology
Board Member: Carl Douglas, Canadian Society of Plant Biologists
Board Member: Yusuke Saijo, Japanese Society of Plant Physiologists
Thanks for a great year!
Here at the Global Plant Council (GPC) we’re big fans of social media
– we’re even helping to develop a new social media platform just for plant scientists! As well as this blog, we also have two Twitter accounts: our main, English-language account is at @GlobalPlantGPC, to which myself (@lisaamartin1), Ruth (@plantscience), and GPC New Media Fellows Amelia (@) and Sarah (@josesci) all contribute. Alternatively, if you speak Spanish we also have a Spanish-language account at @GPC_EnEspanol (operated by Ecuadorian-PhD-student-in-Germany Juan-Diego Santillana-Ortiz; @yjdso, who kindly translates our tweets).
We find Twitter a great way to share links, news, journal articles and conference updates, while also networking with the global plant science community. Join over 1000 other plant scientists and enthusiasts and follow us, if you’re not already!
If you’re not sure where to start with Twitter, Mary Williams from ASPB (@PlantTeaching) has written a great two-part blog (we feature in Part 1! And here’s Part 2) that will help you get started and understand the ‘twetiquette’ of tweeting, especially from conferences.
However, we’ve never had a Facebook page – until now!
Although Facebook is by far the most popular social networking site across the globe, the way we use it has evolved dramatically since its inception in 2004. ‘Thefacebook’ as it was first known, was famously founded by Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg as a way for his fellow students to view and comment on photographs of their dorm-mates. Initially restricted to Harvard, the website soon expanded to universities across the US, then the world, and now almost anyone can use it, even without an academic email address.
But Facebook has moved on from its early days and it’s now not all about ‘poking’ your friends (remember that?!). Now worth billions of dollars, Facebook has morphed into an all-encompassing platform for both recreation and business. While many people still use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, share photos and status updates, it’s also increasingly being used to share news, articles and opinions, to play games, form groups or communities, and as a tool for companies and organizations to interact with and advertise to customers or members.
At the Society for Experimental Biology conference in Prague in June, I heard several scientists extolling the benefits of social media, particularly – and perhaps unsurprisingly – in the Education and Outreach sessions. I was particularly interested to repeatedly hear the message that Facebook is a very useful tool for science communication and outreach – so we’ve decided to try it!
Why bother with Facebook as well as other social media channels?
Having only ever used Facebook for personal uses, Sarah and I asked some prolific social media users for their advice on starting and using a Facebook page, and in answer to the question, “Why should we bother with Facebook?”, the overwhelming message was clear: Facebook is used by more, different people.
Compared to Twitter, which has around 316 million users, Facebook reached its 1 billionth account in 2012, and while the people we spoke to find that most of their Twitter followers are from English-speaking countries, their Facebook visitors represent a much broader range of geographic locations and languages. Furthermore, unlike setting up and maintaining a website, it’s free to set up Facebook pages or groups, so some organizations only exist on social media. By setting up a Facebook page for the GPC, we should, in theory, be able to interact with more people than we would with just our Twitter accounts and blog, thus we will be able to share and promote plant science all over the world more effectively and to a greater diversity of people.
If you’re a Facebook user, please go to www.facebook.com/GlobalPlantGPC and give us a ‘like’!
If you’re attending our SEB Plant Section Symposium on Stress Resilience, you can also let us know by joining our Facebook event! (Please note however, that saying you’re coming to the meeting on Facebook is not the same as registering! You’ll need to do that here.)
Here’s a list of some of our Member Organizations who also have a presence on Facebook. Let us know if there are any other pages we should ‘like’! We’re also interested to hear from you if you have any thoughts about using social media, or suggestions of content you would like to see on Facebook. How do you use Twitter and Facebook, and how does your use of these channels differ, if at all? Please comment below!
GPC Member Organizations on Facebook
- American Society of Agronomy
- American Society of Plant Biologists
- Argentinean Society of Plant Physiology/Sociedad Argentina de Fisiologia Vegetal
- Australian Society of Plant Biologists
- Brazilian Society of Plant Physiology/Sociedade Brasileira de Fisiologia Vegetal
- Crop Science Society of America
- European Plant Science Organisation
- Federation of European Societies of Plant Biology
- Scandinavian Plant Physiology Society (Education Committee)
- Society for Experimental Biology
Ruth did a sterling job of live-tweeting the scientific sessions she attended. She also spent some time stationed at the ASPB booth to talk to people about the Global Plant Council (GPC), as well as a big project we’re helping to bring to life: Plantae.org. I’ll talk more about what I did at the conference later… But first, what is Plantae.org?
The Evolution of Plantae.org
Some time ago, here at the GPC, we thought it would be a great idea if there was one, online location where plant scientists and teachers could go to look for and share new ideas, tools and resources for research and education. We tentatively called it the ‘Plant Knowledge Hub’, and set about looking for people or organizations that might be able to help us make it a reality.
In doing so, we discovered that the ASPB was interested in creating a kind of community networking and collaboration platform, for which they had the working title ‘Plant Science Exchange’. Joining forces, we decided to combine the two ideas into one big portal, now called ‘Plantae’. Extending beyond the ASPB membership, Plantae will be for plant scientists and educators all over the world. We hope it will become the leading plant science resource hub and community gathering place.
At this point, I should also mention the Society for Experimental Biology (SEB), without whose help the GPC would not have been able to move forward with this project. The SEB generously provided enough funding for my post! I joined the GPC in February as the Outreach & Communications Manager, so as well as looking after the GPC’s internal and external communications and helping to spread the word about the work of the GPC, one of my main duties is to identify and curate tools, resources and plant science information to upload to Plantae.
I’ve made a few simple websites in the past, but nothing as complicated as an entire ‘digital ecosystem’ so taking the ‘Plant Science Knowledge Exchange Hub’ from an idea to the reality of Plantae.org was going to be a mammoth task. Fortunately we have had a lot of help!
Susan Cato, the ASPB’s Director of Member Services and Digital Marketing, and her team, have been doing a stellar job of pulling different stakeholder groups together to build and develop the Plantae platform. As well as a group of web architects to build the portal’s infrastructure, an agency called LookThink has been involved, with the unenviable task of optimizing the user experience. It’s no mean feat to take our ideas about what the platform should do, and the practicalities of how it can be built, to ensure that the final online product actually does what users want and need it to do in an intuitive, user-friendly way!
Ultimately, Plantae.org will have features such as Facebook or LinkedIn-style user profiles and groups, with the ability to ‘connect’, interact and send private messages. It will have public and private discussion boards where scientists can collaborate, talk about issues in science, or ask questions to the community and have them answered. It will eventually contain hundreds and thousands of pages of content including research papers, teaching resources, videos, posters and much more, some of which will be curated by groups like the GPC, and others uploaded directly by members. Underlying all of this, the portal needs a robust, intuitive search engine to allow users to find exactly the contact they are looking for.
User Testing the Beta Version
So during the ASPB conference, I was to be found in a meeting room with Clare Torrans from LookThink, helping her to conduct some user experience analysis on an early beta version of the Plantae site. We recruited a range of potential Plantae users – from students through to senior professors – and asked them to tell us what they thought of the idea of Plantae, whether they would use it and find it useful, whether the icons, buttons and links on the screen did what they expected, and what else they would like Plantae to do.
I’d never consciously considered the ‘user experience’ of a website before, but having spent time with Clare, I now realize it’s a vital part of the build process – and now I’m analyzing every website I visit!
The feedback we received was varied: there were some clear patterns related to age, academic level, or previous experience with social media, some people pointed out elements of the site I hadn’t even noticed, or misinterpreted buttons I’d thought were obvious, but – positive or negative – all of the feedback we received was useful and will be fed back into the site development process.
When can I start using Plantae?
The site isn’t quite ready yet, but taking into account all of the data we obtained from the user testing sessions at Plant Biology 15, we will hopefully be ready for launch in the Autumn. Watch this space for more news!
Armed with a banner, a new batch of hot-off-the-press leaflets, some of our infamous GPC recycled paper pens, and a map of the world, the purpose of my trip was to staff an exhibitor’s booth at the conference to help raise awareness of the GPC and the projects and initiatives we are involved with.
To encourage delegates to speak to the exhibitors, there was a chance to win prizes in exchange for a ‘passport’ filled with stickers or stamps collected from each of the booths. This gave me a fantastic opportunity to meet people from all over the world and tell them about the Global Plant Council – even the SEB’s Animal and Cell biologists!
Many visitors to the booth were from Europe, but I also met people from as far away as Argentina, Australia, China and Vietnam. Thanks to everyone who visited the booth and gave me their email addresses to sign up for our monthly e-Bulletin newsletter!
“So what does the Global Plant Council actually do?”
This was the question I was most frequently asked at the conference. The answer is: many things! But to simplify matters, our overall remit falls into two main areas.
1) Enabling better plant science
Plant science has a critical role to play in meeting global challenges such as food security, hunger and malnutrition. The GPC currently has 29 member organizations, including the SEB, representing over 55,000 plant, crop, agricultural and environmental scientists around the world. By bringing these professional organizations together under a united global banner, we have a stronger voice to help influence and shape policy and decision-making at the global level. Our Executive Board and member organization representatives meet regularly and feed into international discussions and consultations.
The GPC also aims to facilitate more effective and efficient plant-based scientific research. Practically speaking, this means we organize, promote, provide support for, and assist with internationally collaborative projects and events. A good example is the Stress Resilience Symposium and Discussion Forum we are hosting, together with the SEB, in Brazil in October.
This meeting – which will be a satellite meeting of the International Plant Molecular Biology 2015 conference – will bring together scientists from across the world who are studying the mechanisms by which plants interact with and respond to their environments, particularly in the face of climate change. It will provide an excellent opportunity for researchers of all levels and from different regions to network and learn from each other, fostering new relationships and collaborations across borders. Registration and abstract submission is now open, so why not come along!
Importantly, as well as learning from researchers all over the world about the fantastic research they are doing, we also want to identify important research that is not being done, or which could be done better. Then, we can come together to discuss strategies to fund and fill these gaps.
You can find out more about our other current initiatives by going to our website.
2) Enabling better plant scientists
As well as physically bringing people together at meetings and events, the Global Plant Council aims to better connect plant scientists from around the world, promote plant research and funding opportunities, share knowledge and best practice, and identify reports, research tools, and educational resources.
Plant scientists have created an amazing diversity of assets for research and education, so by facilitating access to and encouraging use of these resources, we hope that a desperately needed new generation of plant researchers will be inspired to continue working towards alleviating some of the world’s most pressing problems. For example, we’re translating plant science teaching materials into languages other than English, and are helping the American Society of Plant Biologists to curate content for Plantae.org, an online resource hub and gathering place for the plant science community that will be launched later this year – stay tuned!
In addition, the GPC website is full of useful information including research and funding news, an events calendar, reports and white papers, fellowships and awards. We operate a Twitter account (@GlobalPlantGPC) for up-to-the-minute news and views, and a Spanish version @GPC_EnEspanol. We also have a blog (obviously!) that is regularly updated with interesting and informative articles written by the GPC staff, our two New Media Fellows, and plant scientists from across our member network. A Facebook page will be coming soon!
If you would like any more information about the projects and initiatives mentioned here, or more details about the GPC’s work, please do contact me (Lisa Martin, Outreach & Communications Manager): email@example.com.
What inspired you to focus your career on education in the plant sciences?
As a biochemistry student whose friends were arts majors, I discovered that I really enjoyed the challenge of explaining things through plain language and analogy. After a postdoc I took a faculty position at a primarily undergraduate institution where professors were encouraged to explore different approaches to teaching.
How have people responded to the Teaching Tools in Plant Biology (TTPB) you have developed, and how are these being used?
The response has been really positive. I regularly hear from undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, lab heads and educators who are using them for a multitude of purposes including lesson preparation, self-learning and outreach. The articles can be accessed through most university libraries or via ASPB membership. They are also available throughout the developing world through the AGORA program.
The teaching tools articles are quite technical, so we didn’t anticipate that high school teachers would want to read them. However, in response to their expressed interest I started posting interesting newsclips and videos onto the various social media sites that I manage. This summer we’re moving all of the content onto a new platform, Plantae.org, which will provide a centralized place for educators to connect in what I have described as a Global Plant Science Learning Community. I’m really excited about providing a space for people to share their ideas and promote discussions about effective plant science teaching.
Why do you think teaching the plant sciences in an inspirational way proves so difficult?
The biggest obstacle is the preconception that plants are not interesting, which too often is conveyed by teachers in primary and secondary education. Additionally, many students have no first-hand experience of growing or caring for a plant, and this first-hand experience is really key. We find that many of the most engaged young people have grown up in close contact with plants, perhaps through a family’s involvement in agriculture or horticulture.
In terms of status and salaries, our society places a much higher value on medical sciences and medical research than the plant sciences; the tangible rewards of working with and studying plants are not always evident.
How can we better capture student imaginations when it comes to plants?
Giving students the opportunity to physically engage and inquire about plants is critical, and this has to span from the earliest years through university education. Students need to use all of their senses when exploring plants, and being allowed to explore in an open-ended way lets students develop an interest and curiosity about plants.
This idea of exploration and open-ended inquiry should continue into university, even in large lecture classes. Give students a pea in a pot to take home and observe. Hand out Brussels sprouts, green onions and daisies for students to pull apart and examine. Use some class time to pose open-ended questions. Good ideas are plentiful!
You are features editor for The Plant Cell. What does this role involve?
TTPB is published by The Plant Cell, and we made the decision early on to focus our effort on the teaching of upper-level plant biology. This is the point at which students transition from using textbooks to the primary literature.
To write each article, I read dozens of recent papers and review articles to identify the key questions and the foundational concepts a student needs. I then create both a written article and an image-rich version of the information. Images are powerful ways to explain difficult concepts, and also are useful to people who teach and learn in languages other than English. After I finish the articles I send them out to several experts for peer review. I update the articles regularly so that they continue to reflect our current understanding.
A new initiative this year has been to draw on the talents of the community to develop additional Teaching Tools topics. We’ve been running competitions to solicit pre-proposals for development into Teaching Tools – you can read more about that here.
When did you first get involved with social media? How can social media platforms such as blogging and Twitter be of benefit to researchers?
My social media roots stretch back to the early 1990s when I was active in the usenet email-based Arabidopsis and Plant Education newsgroups. These networks were excellent sources of resources, ideas and support as I became an independent researcher and educator.
I started using Twitter, ScoopIt and Facebook in earnest in 2011 with the encouragement of Sarah Blackford (@BiosciCareers) and the Global Plant Council’s Ruth Bastow (@plantscience). Like many people, I quickly realized the power of Twitter and other social media tools as a way to connect and converse with the broader community of plant scientists, plant educators, and other plant enthusiasts. Social media not only lets me meet and learn from plant scientists from around the world, but also keep abreast of new publications and get a glimpse into what is being discussed at conferences.
Mary’s top tips for getting started on social media:
- Apply the same social rules online as you would in real life
- Be friendly
- Give credit where it’s due
- Avoid talking about religion and politics; be culturally sensitive
- Listen a lot, talk a little
- Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to get noticed
- Be professional; swearing, gossip and slander are common in the social sphere, but when it’s being broadcast to the world and recorded for posterity, think twice
Global Plant Council President Professor Bill Davies discusses his vision for the future of the GPC and its role in meeting some of the global challenges facing plant science and society today.
As we face the task of sustainably feeding an ever-increasing global population, the issue of food security has never been more pressing, and of course, plant science plays a fundamental role in addressing this challenge. Professor Davies believes the GPC can have a major impact in raising the profile of plants in all parts of society, but perhaps most urgently with the policy makers who can drive investment into research.
He explains: “Plant science tends to have a lower priority with funding agencies. A number of years ago there was quite a lot of talk about plant science being a pretty mature subject and therefore we didn’t need much money for research. Fortunately the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO) managed to convince the European Parliament and others that there was an important opportunity here, the funding continued and we’ve seen a lot of benefits from that – both in furthering plant science and enhancing food production”. He continues: “Raising the profile of plant science is key, and – more specifically – we need to think about ways in which, collectively, we could address some of these challenges”.
A global conversation
Professor Davies believes the GPC is well placed to tackle global problems on a worldwide scale, by providing platforms for member organizations and individuals to collaborate on a variety of issues: “There are some genuinely global challenges that the GPC could take on. We can try to provide more opportunities for people who might be interested in addressing things beyond the boundaries of their own national scientific societies”. He adds: “I’ve been a member of the Society for Experimental Biology (SEB) longer than I care to imagine, and it’s been a really important part of my life. It delivers a lot more than just good science. The SEB has made and continues to make a big effort to operate internationally, but there’s a limit, whereas there’s no limit for GPC.
“One of the things we’ve been talking about is whether there is more that we could offer societies, particularly in developing countries. Are we making resources available that can be as influential in Ghana, for example, as they might be in the United States? If there are opportunities to broaden the scope of that offering, particularly to address some of the areas where food security is a major issue, then we can do that and, I hope, help national societies in parts of the world where they are not as influential as they might be. I believe that there is strength in numbers.
“It seems entirely logical to me to address global challenges with a global organization”.
One of the key goals of the GPC is to build up databases of information and resources that can be used by researchers, plant breeders, farmers and other agricultural stakeholders all around the world. This is being done both as part of the three main GPC initiatives (Diversity Seek, Biofortification, and Stress Resilience), but we are also collaborating with the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) to launch an online platform for the plant science community this summer.
Professor Davies is keen to harness the power of the online community for cultivating a new excitement around plant science. He led a massive open online course (MOOC) about food security at Lancaster University last year, and was pleased to see how engaged the participants were. He explains: “We had 5000 students with a fantastic level of enthusiasm and commitment. At the end of it we were left with the feeling that people were keen to know more.
“My view is that if you listen to people talk about why they do the science they do, what’s involved, and to some extent how they do it, then I think you’re in a position to make a much more well-informed decision about the science in general or controversial issues, and to contribute to the debate”.
Professor Davies believes that the online plant science platform from the ASPB and GPC will provide useful resources for scientists, teachers and students alike: “I’m in this business because I was inspired by lecturers both as an undergraduate and in graduate school. If we can capture the drama and excitement of science, we can make it available to everyone. It’s a wonderful opportunity”.
Professor William (Bill) Davies is the President of the Global Plant Council and Distinguished Professor of Plant Biology at Lancaster University, UK. His research into stress responses in plants and his involvement with many international projects aimed at improving global food security led to him being awarded a CBE award for services to Science in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours list. For more information, click here.