Markus Wei?kopf and Thorsten Witt
Wissenschaft im Dialog
JUnQ, 5, 2, XVI–XVIII, 2015
In the space of a few years, the internet has radically altered our media consumption. The average internet usage in Germany increased from 17 minutes per week in 2000 to 111 minutes per week in 2014, making the internet the third most popular media type after television and radio. Every day the internet is used for twice as long as print media. Among 14–19 year olds, who use the internet for an average of 233 minutes per day, the internet is the medium of choice, well ahead of all other media. Social media accounts for a significant proportion of internet use: 24% of 14–19 year olds spend over two hours a day on Twitter, Facebook, etc.; another 28% spend over an hour. Social media have also brought about major changes in our usage behavior – we are no longer merely recipients and consumers of information but have become active users and even creators.
Science communication has also changed as a result of these developments. According to a recent study, 45% of Germans use the internet as a source of information on scientific issues; among the under-30s, this figure is currently at 68%. Statistics from the USA and UK suggest that these percentages are likely to rise sharply in the coming years and that the internet is increasingly replacing classical media as a source of information.
What are the implications of these changes for one of the main players in science communication, namely the scientists themselves? In the following pages, we will explore this and related questions, including how scientists’ communication with the public has changed as a result of social media, and the opportunities and risks involved.