Social Media: The Undeniable Game Changer in the World of Research and Discovery

They say that life is full of surprises. That is the understatement of the moment, especially as it relates to the integration of social media within our career trajectories.
 
It is difficult to imagine where I would be in a professional capacity in the absence of social media.
 
My journey in the world of social media began over four years ago, where I facilitated the development of an educational blog known as Emergency Medicine PharmD, which is aimed at defining the role of the emergency medicine pharmacist. My involvement in the blog has allowed me to unite several passions of mine in one vehicle: research and lifelong learning; writing in both scientific terms and prose in the form of storytelling; and emergency medicine pharmacy.
 
At around the same time, I created a professional Twitter account as a means of disseminating newly published entries from the blog to those who followed me in addition to sharing articles and interesting posts related to the practice of emergency medicine pharmacy.
 
In serving as associate editor of the blog, having authored over 75 educational entries since its inception, and through my active engagement on Twitter, my contributions within the world of social media has propelled my professional career as an emergency medicine pharmacist in ways that I never thought could ever be remotely possible. I realized early on that social media can be leveraged for research purposes and to date, I have had formal publication of three research papers in the medical literature related to social media and pharmacy. With this, I have also been able to interact with several other individuals within the international community of emergency medicine clinicians and collaborate on blog posts and podcasts on various topics as well as participate in research studies and other such activities. Last year, I joined a team of emergency medicine pharmacists from around the country in producing an online curriculum called the Capsules series, which is focused on creating educational modules related to practical pharmacology for the emergency medicine practitioner. One of my greatest achievements to date has been being elected to serve as incoming chair of the Emergency Medicine Practice and Research Network of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, where I will take the lead on various activities throughout my term on behalf of more than 1,000 members of the network in this national organization. Finally, in their provision of prescriber and patient education related to medication safety, the Food and Drug Administration (yes, THE FDA) cited one of my own blog entries as a featured reference in a recently released drug safety warning. That was the icing on the cake; to have a major federal agency cite my own writing on an education blog in their efforts to enhance medication safety was not only a “mind blown” moment for me, but it also reflects a turning of the tide, demonstrating that our contributions in social media can be influential on the grand scale – and that you never know who may be following your work in these outlets.
 
These opportunities serve as conversation starters of the penultimate question related to social media: “What’s next?”
 
There is room for improvement in this medium. We need to begin to develop those discussions with folks who may be of the “traditional” mindset, particularly those who may serve on promotion and tenure committees, on the value of social media in professional development in a manner that they can understand and appreciate. No longer should it be conventional to scoff at social media for all of its associations with frivolity and “time wasted”, which has been a traditionally held attitude in the past. As more and more academics, researchers, and clinicians professionally engage in social media, it is also important to recognize the opportunities that arise as a result of their involvement. In addition, social media is not without its shortcomings, not unlike any other medium where information is shared, and one area is in the lax peer review process. There can be any number of methods for conducting peer review, whether it be pre- or post-publication, of material that is open access and available for wider web of readers and users. If this is conducted as a means to enhance the accuracy and quality of information shared within the resource, it may facilitate presentation of the medium in such a way that members of promotion and tenure committees may recognize and value, and perhaps become more receptive in accepting these materials as scholarly activity in the same manner as traditional print publications.
 
Suffice it to say that social media is indeed here to stay. The window of opportunity in the world of social media is wide, and through these improvements, research and discovery can progress to support and further the work of contributors of this movement.