August 17, 2011

It’s Official: Science More Popular Than Cricket

Australian science is now more popular than cricket "“ at least among Facebook fans.

In the latest worldwide Facebook rankings, science from Australia and New Zealand has overhauled Cricket Australia and opened up daylight ahead of pop idols Danii Minogue and Silver Chair, and Australia's bid to host the world soccer cup.

"There couldn't be any better news in National Science Week," says Chris Cassella, managing director of ScienceAlert, which this week notched up a third of a million fans on Facebook worldwide. "See it for yourself on"

"It shows that social media is an entirely new, massive audience for science "“ and one that it really hasn't yet got its head around. Since we passed the quarter million mark early in August, our fans have been growing at a net rate of several thousand a day: it's part of a generational change in how people are getting their information."

Mr Cassella said the news was even better when it came to the world rankings of news websites. "Incredibly, Sciencealert has actually overhauled TIME magazine and, at 19th in the world among news site Facebook fans, and we're mowing down The Wall Street Journal."

There was a growing appetite among young internet users aged 13-25 to learn about the latest science in "Ëœbite-sized chunks', he added. "That's what ScienceAlert's Facebook site provides "“ but it also links them to the ScienceAlert website where people can find more detailed stories about the latest achievements of Australasian research from our universities, science agencies, centres and institutions "“ as well as information about jobs and courses."

Many scientific institutions still seem unsure about social media and how to connect with it, says ScienceAlert founder Julian Cribb. "If you're at the cutting edge in science, you need to be at the cutting edge in contemporary knowledge sharing also. Otherwise your science doesn't achieve full traction and impact. It's that simple.

"Also, people's online behaviour is changing. They are now less likely to actively search out content "“ and more likely to use sites like Facebook as their primary way to discover new things. We need to ensure that the information they find and share with one another is scientifically valid, trustworthy and evidence-based "“ so that we have an informed society able to reach sound decisions about big issues."

Mr Cassella said that not only were ScienceAlert facebook fans learning about Australasian science, but they were also engaging with it "“ by "Ëœliking', sharing, commenting and clicking through for more detail. "This isn't a passive audience by any means. The beauty of new media is that, unlike TV ratings or newspaper circulation, you actually know something about what people are doing with the information they get. The analytics are excellent."

He said that Australasian science institutions who wanted to know how people were reacting to new university courses or science employment offers could find out vastly more by using new media than old media.

"There's a talent war going on among the top universities and science centres worldwide. Those who don't attract the best students or recruit the most brilliant staff are likely to be the also-rans of science. Conversely those that can pull the talent globally have the best chance of being the leaders who shape tomorrow."


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