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Engaging Chinese developmental biologists with WeChat

Posted by , on 17 April 2020

Social media gets a hard time these days, and in some instances rightly so. For the scientific community however, it’s a powerful platform for informal science communication and fruitful collaborations. On Twitter for example, the developmental biology community shares news, discusses research, celebrates publications and commiserates grant rejections. It can be a supportive, informative and fun place that highlights life at and beyond the bench. With 13.9k and 15.8k followers respectively, Development and the Node use Twitter to interact with this community, promoting their content as well as engaging with authors and readers.

While Twitter is our go-to, it isn’t used everywhere and The Company of Biologists (the not-for-profit publisher of Development) has been focusing its efforts on audiences that can’t be reached through the Twittersphere. One such audience is in China, where different social media platforms are used, and manuscript submissions and readership figures have been steadily increasing. So, last summer we launched a Chinese WeChat channel.

 

Social media in China

WeChat was developed and released by Tencent in 2011 and has since become one the most popular social media applications in China. Want to search for news articles? Use WeChat. Talk to friends? Use WeChat. Order a takeaway? Use WeChat. Pay for a meal before you even arrive at the restaurant? Use WeChat. Figures from the end of 2019 indicate that WeChat’s monthly users have increased to a whopping one billion.

 

Screenshot showing articles on WeChat
(L) The Company of Biologists’ WeChat feed; (R) The first post on the account included introductions from the company’s Board of Directors.

 

Science on WeChat

Much like on Twitter, a lot of scientific discussion happens on WeChat, and many Western scientific organisations already have WeChat channels to promote their work. Since the launch of our WeChat channel, we’ve accumulated a following edging towards 600 and this number is continually growing. Given our relatively low profile and lack of a physical presence in China, we’re pleased with this growth and are excited to build a community of engaged Chinese researchers.

We publish articles on the channel once a week that highlight some of the many thing The Company of Biologists does, be it the latest research, interviews, posts from the Node, Company announcements, grant information, Workshops, Meetings – there’s a lot to share. We’re also running a series providing advice to support Chinese authors in their publishing experience with us. Subjects in this series covered so far include a video about how to frame a research question, the process of submitting to all five of The Company of Biologists’ journals and top tips on promoting research after publication.

 

Screenshots of different articles published on WeChat
Screenshots from three articles published on WeChat: (L) an interview with a preLighter; (middle) a Q&A with first authors; (R) tips on how to promote research.

 

We’re fortunate to work with a supportive agency who assist us with the translations of our articles. Once the articles are published in local time, users can share content that they find interesting in WeChat groups or tap the ‘Wow’ button to promote the article in their own networks.

 

The future

Our main aim this year is to establish a working group of Chinese early-career researchers. We’d invite members of this group to work on the channel with us, which could be in the form of guest posts, checking the translations of our content, or providing insights into relevant topics. If you or anyone you know would be interested, please do get in touch – simply email wechat@biologists.com.

 

The Company of Biologists logo and WeChat QR codeIf you have WeChat, give us a follow!

 

 

 

 

 

 




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