Puffles’ Twitter Lists – Communicating Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM)


A wander through the various science-type tweeple that Puffles and I have met over the years.

This list isn’t intended to be a comprehensive guide to all the Twitter accounts of the best scientists in the world. That would be pointless from my perspective. As science, technology and engineering are huge fields in themselves, it’s the equivalent of someone writing a Twitter list for all the people in say ‘the arts’ or ‘the humanities’ or ‘people that like sport’.

I don’t know nearly as much about science as I would like to. I’ve commented on how I would like to go about learning more – and how people in the science world can reach out to the rest of us who might otherwise be like ***Oooh! Complicated Stuff!*** Perhaps it mirrors those people who say that they don’t do politics. Because I know so little about science in general, I’ve gone with this title until I find out more.

Science communicators

I’m going to start with the people who are the gateway to science – the science communicators. I first stumbled across Alice Bell in person when she visited Cambridge in 2011. I think it was also here that I was reacquainted with the lovely Sarah Castor-Perry, who I first met in 2009 through a friend of a friend. It was Sarah who pulled someone up about saying something was as useful as a chocolate teapot. Her old friends at The Naked Scientists decided to put that to the test…and make one!

You’ve got the grandmasters of science communication, Brian Cox (physics, planets and D:Ream), Ben Goldacre and Mark Henderson – the latter having been spotted in Cambridge sharing a glass of wine with a certain dragon fairy. You also have Dr Alice Roberts with a similar profile. Keeping an eye on the planets, have a look at the brilliant Dr Lucy Rogers too.

One of the other top science communicators who is currently taking time out from the world of work to build a robot amongst other things is Michelle Brook. Michelle was also instrumental in making two of my recent social media digital videos – introducing Twitter and social media analytics respectively. Alongside Michelle who also helped with the first project, and helped scope the Twitter guide is Alice Sheppard. Alice is one of my ‘go to’ people on all things astronomy – as is one of the brightest young minds in the field Hannah at @Stella190.

Over at Nature is Lou Woodley, walking the tightrope of social media and academic journals. A tricky one given that social media is undermining the traditional revenue streams of academic journals. As I’ve said at conferences myself, if you lock your content up behind paywalls, don’t be surprised if people choose to bypass your content. Onside with this argument is my local MP Julian Huppert – currently on leave from Cambridge University. As one of the few parliamentarians with post-doctoral experience in science, a lot of science-related correspondence goes through him. Through Lou and Julian, I also met Eva Amsen, who blogs at EasternBlot. A science communicator too, she’s in the process of heading back to London – a city that has also seen the likes of Michelle and Sarah mentioned above, move (back) to. It was at the same gathering that I met Rebecca Nesbit of the Society of Biology.

In Scotland there is a thriving science community too – some of whom I hope to meet when (if all goes well) I venture north this year. Far north in Aberdeen is Heather Doran, another science communications type. Someone who tweets some ‘not safe for work’ science research (you try explaining to the boss why that article on the defacating or reproduction of an obscure animal is essential reading) is Lauren Reid – or PygmyLoris as I know her. The Loris, like Puffles, has big eyes.

Fame Lab!

Andrew Holding, who also facilitates Cambridge Skeptics In The Pub pointed Puffles towards this one, so not surprisingly friendly dragon fairy (and myself) turned up. Andrew Pontzen was holding court here, introducing a series of awesome speakers – why weren’t my science teachers at school like this? Alongside him was Djuke Veldhuis.

Two speakers that caught my eye were Hayley Frend (because she used giant jellybellies to explain how to target cancer) and Ginny Smith, who hit the nail on the head with her quotation:

“Although humans are capable of reason, we don’t always use it”

Delivering a lovely talk while the judges deliberated was Helen Keen who managed the very difficult task of making a talk on something very complex (space flight) entertaining, humourous, feminist and understandable even to a non-scientist like me.  The eventual winner of the Cambridge Famelab heat and going through to the final was Catherine Carver.

On all things engineering, the two people I follow are Phillipa Oldham at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, and Katherine MacGregor at the Royal Institute of Engineers – also with Jane Sutton of the same institution. At the other end digitally is Marilyn Booth, digital engagement lead at the Department of Business. Not far away at the Ordnance Survey is Kate Beard, who also does science policy.

On medical research, Suzi Gage is doing an interesting study in her PhD – one that will be of interest to drugs policy and health policy people.

Ellie Cosgrave came to Twitterfame as a result of her #TakeBackTheTube campaign following her horrific experiences of harassment. But let’s not forget her engineering expertise on smart cities.





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