In response to that Kardashian index nonsense that disparaged scientists who use Twitter, Science magazine too a look at the “top 50 science stars of Twitter”. I made the cut. I have a Kardashian index of 355.
They also refuted the premise of the index.
Rather than identifying “Science Kardashians”—those who are, as Hall put it, “famous for being famous”—the top 50 list reveals that a majority of the science Twitter stars spend much, if not all, of their time on science communication. For them, Twitter popularity can amplify their efforts in public outreach. A case in point is Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and host of the science TV show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. With more than 2.4 million followers and fewer than 200 citations, the astrophysicist is undoubtedly the top-ranking celebrity scientist on Twitter—and has the highest K-index of anyone on the list. Yet few would consider his Twitter fame unwarranted.
The list is also 92% male. It must be because women are intrinsically incapable of the gossipy social chatter that Twitter is so good at. Oh, wait, no…there are external reasons? Really?
Although the index is named for a woman, Science’s survey highlights the poor representation of female scientists on Twitter, which Hall hinted at in his commentary. Of the 50 most followed scientists, only four are women. Astronomer Pamela Gay of Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, whose more than 17,000 Twitter followers put her 33rd on the list, says the result doesn’t surprise her because society still struggles to recognize women as leaders in science. Female scientists are also more likely to face sexist attacks online that can discourage their participation, she adds. “At some point, you just get fed up with all the ‘why you are ugly’ or ‘why you are hot’ comments.”
Interesting. If anything ought to conform to the stereotype (not the reality) of womanly behavior, I think Twitter is a pretty good exemplar. But notice how when you put an easily measured status metric on something, and make it easy to detect the sex of the participants, boom, men dominate? I think Pamela Gay came up with the clearest explanation for why that happens.