GFAR blog

A gene-jockey tweets her way through GCARD3

A geneticist’s personal experience of the world of social media at GCARD3

 I am a geneticist by trade; my ‘safe place’ is in the laboratory where all things are clean and within white, well-defined boxes. My ‘un-safe’ place would constitute a series of unpredictable subjects (humans) functioning on jet-leg and an unlimited supply of caffeine. For example, a large conference situated in an out-of-the-way place…  cue  GCARD3 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Others had volunteered for the social media training hosted by GFAR and had fervently applied in the hopes of bolstering their social media skill set, but definitely not me. I envisioned three days of mind-numbing training followed by some mish-mash of presentations, networking and attempts at being active on social media platforms. Slumped in my seat, I awaited the start of the training session with an impending sense of boredom. But what I actually experienced during the first few moments of training, surrounded by unfamiliar but bright, shiny and expectant young faces was a hum of enthusiasm. To my chagrin, things were looking positive.

For the next five days, I stepped out of the lab and into the shoes of a social media reporter, live-tweeting, snapping photos, conducting live interviews, sleeping so little and networking so much. Never could I have imagined how much I would learn and what an amazing group of people I would meet. I was able to experience the energy radiating from more than 500 people of over 80 nationalities. I was inspired by some phenomenal young minds and wise leaders brought together to improve global agricultural outputs to feed the masses.

What I reflected upon in the final hours of Friday evening, after the closing of GCARD3, was the breadth of tangible skills I’d managed to develop and employ in a six-day period, not to mention the thought of all those sexy one-liners feeding themselves through Twitter and their unexpected, but undoubtedly real, impact on those looking in on the conference from all over the world, via various social media platforms.

More importantly, there were the incredible thoughts, viewpoints and passionate words elicited by the delegates of GCARD3 along with the definitive commitments made by donors, scientists, young agri-preneurs and the ‘main-men’ of agricultural research and development, commitments that will hopefully help drive agricultural development in third world countries to help feed 9.6 billion of the world’s people in 2050.

Social media at GCARD3 produced 8,169 tweets reaching 2 million different Twitter accounts, 10 video interviews, two podcasts and 33 blogs with more to come. Who would have thought!?

It was a wholly surprising, inspiring and memorable experience. I have new respect for social media and its impact on society, for the way in which it filters through electronic systems and into the minds and hearts of people all over the world. I now descend into the world of Twitter on a regular basis to capture some exciting scientific developments in only 146 characters, without needing to decipher the jargon often found on a science journal’s webpage.

I hope to transfer some of my enthusiasm for, and understanding of, social media to fellow scientists, so that we all have an opportunity to get the science to the people for real impact.


For more information on being a gene-jockey, read this.

Blogpost by Genevieve Thompson, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – ThompsonG(at)

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

1 thought on “A gene-jockey tweets her way through GCARD3”

  1. I love the #converted and I hope you convert more people. I’m glad you’ve been converted.
    I’m now convinced that i missed a whole lot.

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