When Finnish researchers took on the Twitter trolls


Credit: Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto by way of Getty

In August 2021, a journalist in Finland criticized the worth of sure analysis initiatives on Twitter. Others joined in, with a extra hostile tone. Sami Syrjämäki, head of publications for the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies in Helsinki, which incorporates 282 societies and four academies of the arts and sciences, describes what occurred subsequent.

What was the background to the marketing campaign?

A journalist at one in every of Finland’s massive media publishers tweeted crucial feedback about some analysis initiatives, saying, ‘This is not science, it’s ridiculous that these sorts of venture are being financed by public cash.’

Numerous lecturers responded, hoping that others would learn their replies and perhaps study extra about analysis. But then, extra journalists joined in on Twitter and on blogs, and their tone was not so good. I used to be concerned in these Twitter exchanges. We tried to clarify how these initiatives are being evaluated. The dialogue continued for a few weeks.

What occurred subsequent?

On 5 September, Tapio Määttä, tutorial rector at the University of Eastern Finland, tweeted that it is likely to be a good suggestion for particular person researchers to jot down a quite simple tweet explaining what they’re researching, in simply 140 characters. Some of the researchers from his personal college, which has campuses in Joensuu and Kuopio, did that, however not many.

How did it escalate?

I knew Määttä from Twitter. We’ve by no means met, however we’ve got had many discussions on social media, defending researchers, science, universities and so on. I felt like I knew him. So I tweeted and mentioned, “This is a great idea, but you need a hashtag to make it easier to find and follow the tweets.” We got here up with #minätutkin (translated as ‘#I research’).

After that, the venture began flying — principally, Twitter exploded. The University of Oulu, one in every of the largest tutorial establishments in Finland, inspired its researchers to participate, after which I tweeted seven extra universities to counsel that they do the identical.

Sami Syrjämäki in his home office with his computer showing a Finnish hashtag on Twitter.

Sami Syrjämäki helped to start out a massively in style hashtag.Credit: Sami Syrjämäki

Describe the marketing campaign’s influence.

For 4 days, from 6 September to 9 September, #minätutkin was the hottest Twitter hashtag in Finland, overtaking #huuhkajat (the hashtag of the nationwide soccer crew, which was enjoying towards France) and #BigBrotherFinland (for the reality-television programme, which began on 5 September). If you evaluate this traction with that of the traditional sizzling matters on Twitter, it was simply loopy. The viewers appeared to adore it. One researcher who studied the influence discovered that there have been almost 4,000 tweets with the hashtag in four days. Overall, the hashtag has been used more than 10,000 times — which, in a rustic with a inhabitants of 5.5 million, is superb. Other researchers used #WeAnalysis and #ITeach.

People defined what they’re researching in a easy method, with none aggression, and the high quality of the dialogue turned significantly better. Also, researchers related and reconnected with one another. Some have solid collaborations because of this. The mainstream media acknowledged the challenge positively, and there have been three or 4 articles on the motion, together with a big one in Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest nationwide every day newspaper, based mostly in Helskinki.

On 13 August, the Finnish authorities introduced proposals for a €40-million (US$46-million) discount in funding for analysis in its draft funds for 2022. But on the fifth day of the marketing campaign (10 September), it was reported that this had been halted. Matias Mäkynen, a member of Parliament, who chairs the parliamentary working group on innovation and analysis, tweeted thanks for the marketing campaign, and mentioned these cuts have been withdrawn at the least for this yr. The minister of science and tradition talked about the marketing campaign in a optimistic tone and thanked us for it. It may need been a coincidence, however I believe the marketing campaign had a component to play in that call.

What can different researchers study out of your marketing campaign?

Its success was as a result of the incontrovertible fact that it was not owned by anyone. It was not run by a college or group. It was a straightforward method for a lot of researchers to participate in discussions in safely: if somebody tried to troll or mock a researcher, their tweets had been drowned out by 1000’s of optimistic ones. This form of marketing campaign might be reproduced simply in any nation the place comparable issues are taking place.

How did the journalist who made the first criticisms reply?

I haven’t seen a single remark!

This interview has been edited for size and readability.

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