We need clear policy on tweeting from academic conferences
November 10, 2014
When Susie Maidment presented her in-progress research at SVP in Berlin last week, someone came in late, missed her “no tweeting, please” request, and posted a screenshot of the new work (since deleted).
On the back of that, Susie started an interesting thread in which it became apparent that people have very different assumptions. She, and Marc Jones, and others, were assuming that if you don’t tell people it’s OK to tweet, then they’ll know not to. Meanwhile, I, and Björn Brembs, and others were assuming the opposite: unless someone says not to tweet, you’re good to go.
Obviously this state of affairs is a recipe for disaster. We’re all going to find ourselves giving presentations where we assume the audience will be doing one thing, but at least some audience members are assuming the other.
So the first thing to say is that we should be explicit about our expectations. My talk at SVPCA this year contained this slide:
I’m going to get into the habit of including something like this every time. Similarly, people who don’t want material from their talks appearing on Twitter should say so.
The second thing is that conferences should state their default policies (always of course allowing individual authors to override them). Someone at, say, SVP, should know from the registration material either that it’s OK to tweet unless told not to, or that it’s not OK to tweet unless told that it is. I think it’s unreasonable that different conferences would lean in different directions on this.
The third thing is in the absence of other guidance, it’s better not to tweet. I feel a bit uncomfortable about this because it goes against my pro-open tendencies, but it’s a matter of failing safe. If I want you to tweet my talk but but I forget to say so and there is no conference-wide policy (or the conference policy is No Tweeting), then you won’t tweet it, and that is a missed opportunity –but I’ll live. But if Susie doesn’t want you to tweet but forgets to say so, and you do, then she will be unhappier. (For example, in the present case, Susie is hoping for a media splash, which could be diluted if knowledge of the new finding is already leaking out.
- Individual presenters should say what they want.
- The conference should provide a default policy
- If the absence of both, fail safe by not tweeting.
That’s what I think, anyway. What do you think?