Scientific information and credibility online

THERE are a lot of preconceptions and myths about social media. 

In certain circles, ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ are still pejorative terms dispensed with little understanding about their role in a new digital era.

They are used as rhetorical weapons in an effort to delegitimise some thing, some idea or someone.

For a time, this was also the case for the web. Recall the refrain: ‘Where did you hear that? The Internet!’.

The web, online platforms and social media, however, are transforming our ability to access important information.

They are also transforming the way we communicate key findings, discoveries and knowledge in health and science.

Information can now be disseminated across traditional delivery channels locally, nationally and globally. And all of this can happen in real-time.

Credibility and social media

It’s true that if I ‘follow’ Paris Hilton on Twitter, I will likely receive feeds about her social activities and personal life.

I may even receive some off-the-cuff health advice which may (or may not - should I choose to follow it) be good for my personal health and well-being.

But the same goes for life as for social media.

If I am seeking current, credible and specific health information it is important to identify and select suitable sources for this material.

For news and updates about new research on patient treatments and clinical practice, for example, I may follow the Mayo Clinic (@MayoClinic).

I could try the National Health and Medical Research Council (@nhmrc) for information on evidence-based guidelines.

The Bureau of Meteorology has a pictorially stunning Facebook page ( with an interesting suite of images and graphs.

On this page, an enthusiastic and diverse community shares a passion for conversation on all things weather, climate and water.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (@CSIROnews) informs followers about wide-ranging scientific research, discoveries and innovation across industry sectors.

And SunSmart Victoria (@SunSmartVIC) is a good choice for topical health advice as we come into summer.

For some simple tips about using social media to source reliable health, medical and scientific information, link here.