A social week of food research: Thanks & farewell to Heather Bray

A long time ago (14th September, we’ve been behind with the farewell posts *guilty face*) Heather Bray (@heatherbray6) spent a week curating @RealScientists and showed us the busy world of the social consideration behind food research. This included having some great discussions with Real Scientists’ followers about ethics, publications and GM crops.

She also took the time to share both her love of crafts but also her mad running skills.

You can see all of Heather’s tweets at this archived link. You can also keep up to date of Heather’s work by following her @heatherbray6. And finally you can read Heather’s thought on her week below in our questioner, in which she went above and beyond to give an amazing level of insight into what it’s like to be a curator.


How did you find your week as a curator?

I definitely enjoyed the process, but I did find it challenging. Like when you do something that is slightly terrifying – it always feels better when you’ve done it.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of maintaining many ‘voices’ on Twitter. I’ve tweeted (and continue to tweet) from multiple accounts and have often thought and talked about the idea of voice on social media, especially on non-personal/organisational accounts. For example when I tweeted as @waiteresearch, especially when livetweeting, I felt like @waiteresearch had my voice (and therefore a female voice), but a work version of my voice. It was the voice I would use if I was in public and was speaking on behalf of the organisation. It was a different voice to @heatherbray6.

During my week as @RealScientists it didn’t feel like @heatherbray6 either. I find the idea of multiple personal accounts and online identities really interesting, especially what we choose to reveal to the different audiences. During my week I felt like I was representing @realscientists and that needed a different voice. It wasn’t something I planned – it just happened that way as soon as I took the account on. I was very aware that I was speaking to a different audience to my own organically developed following, like it was someone else’s audience. I felt that I was leaving my regular group and going and talking to a different group for a week, and I actually missed them towards the end. I did feel like there were expectations, but I need to say these were expectations I put on myself and nothing from the Mods or anything made me feel like that. I just wanted to do a good job.

I know that I wasn’t using my @heatherbray6 voice, but interestingly I ended up sharing different things, more personal things, as @RealScientists. It’s made me wonder about @heatherbray6 now actually, and whether I need to bring more authenticity back to her.

Were there any lowlights?

There were only two negative tweets that I saw – about ‘breaking the veil’ which I thought was part of the point of @RealScientists so I took it as a complement. I had some tricky stuff to navigate, and two quite passionate discussions stick out in my mind, but I’m glad to say that the discussions remaind respectful :)

It can be a shock talking to 12,000. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

Yes it was a litting daunting! I’ve moderated twitter chats before and I felt I was doing my best when the community was speaking to each other and I was just dropping discussion topics out there – rather than when it was a 1:13,200 conversation. Still there must be a lot of lurkers out there because I don’t think I saw everyone! There was lots of favouriting and RTing going on. I found the lulls due to timezones interesting and tried to time my ‘breaks’ with them as I went.

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

I would have liked more interaction about genetic modification and the social/historical aspects of that, but I may not have put the tweets out at the right time or it may be that it had been covered enough by previous curators.

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

It helped me to have a rough plan – themes for each of the different days. My work is pretty desk bound – so it was good for me to time my week when I travelled interstate for some meetings. I was also free from family responsibilities for some of that time. Another tips would be to have regular breaks – for work and family and just you. I would also try and have a bit of a support team around you. The Mods are awesome, but maybe a couple of other people who you really trust on Twitter and ideally know offline as well to encourage you. That was really important for me.

If people enjoyed your tweeting who else should the go follow?

I think if I started to name people I’d probably forget someone awesome and then would feel bad! There are lost of people in farming and agriculture who share what they do and are happy to answer questions about why they do what they do. And I’m increasingly finding people in this social/history/agriculture/science/food space and some of them share really interesting things. Just check out who I RT I guess!

What TV show do you think everyone should go watch right now?

Firefly. Go find it on DVD and watch it. And join those of us who lament its passing.

Thank you Heather from the entire RS team for a wonderful week at the helm!

Matthew (@MCeeP)

Matthew is a research fellow at Cranfield University that while trained as a biochemist has accidentally ended up working with optical sensor systems. In addition to helping out @RealScientists he also runs a blog called Errant Science and writes a monthly column for Laboratory News .

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