11 Essential Hashtags for Academics

Academic twitterJust over a year ago I began tweeting as @AcademiaObscura, and in that time I have converted from a twitter sceptic to a fervent advocate. Twitter, and other social media tools, can be invaluable for connecting with others in your field, disseminating your work, and keeping up-to-date with the latest research and news. Indeed, once you are past the hump, Twitter becomes useful for all sorts of things. If you are new to Twitter I highly recommend the Thesis Whisperer’s explanation here (scroll down a little to the using twitter section) and LSE’s guide.

Hashtags are a great way to follow specific discussions, and a number have become staples of the academic twittersphere (side note: I use Tweetdeck to follow numerous hashtags simultaneously – intro here). This list is an attempt to introduce the essentials. Special thanks to Raul Pacheco-Vega, whose extremely useful post provided the basis and inspiration for this.

1. #PhDchat
The hashtag for all things PhD, PhDchat is a staple of academic Twitter, having been initially started all the way back in December 2009 by Nasima Riazat (@NSRiazat). A great place to discuss your research progress, get tips and tricks, share experiences etc. Structured sessions are also hosted:

  • UK/Europe: Wednesday nights, 7.30pm-8.30pm GMT (hosted by Nasima herself)
  • Australia: usually the first Wednesday each month, 7pm-8pm Sydney time (hosted by Inger Mewburn – @thesiswhisperer)

More: There is a satisfyingly geeky analysis of the #PhDchat community here.

2. #ECRchat/#AdjunctChat
As above, but specifically for ‘Early Career Researchers’ (ECR) and adjuncts.

3. #AltAc/#PostAc/#WithAPhD
A trio of useful hashtags for those trying to find alternative academic paths, get out of academia altogether, or figure out what to do with a PhD. Jennifer Polk (@FromPhDToLife) is your go-to person on all of these!

600_3663352324. #shutupandwrite
‘Shut Up and Write’, aside from being a great mantra in general, is the name for informal writing groups convened the world over. I guarantee that attending such a group will be the best decision you ever make in terms of writing productivity. But if there isn’t a group near you (and you don’t have the inclination to start one) you can join one virtually through twitter! They take place on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday each month (#suwtues):

5. #AcWri
AcWri, short for ‘academic writing’ is a great place to find helpful tips, motivational tidbits, and articles about the writing process itself.

6. #ICanHazPdf
Have you ever gone to download that crucial paper you need only to find that it is behind a paywall? If your institutional subscriptions don’t cover what you are looking for, simply tweet the details of the paper along with the hashtag and an email address. Usually someone will come through with the paper pretty quickly. Don’t forget to delete your tweet after!

More: Check out some interesting analysis of #ICanHazPdf here and here, and critical discussions here and here.

7. #ScholarSunday
There is a tradition on Twitter of doing #FollowFriday (or #ff) for short – sending a tweet with a few names of people you recommend to others. Raul Pacheco-Vega created Scholar Sunday to go a step further, calling on academics to share not only who they recommend, but also why.

More: discussion from the hashtags creator.

8. #AcaDowntime
Amongst all the writing, teaching, and general stress of academic life, it is more important than ever to set aside for rest and relaxation. #AcaDowntime calls for academics to share what fun things they are up to on their weekends and in their free time. Hopefully we can foster a culture of work-life balance and encourage us all to take time for ourselves.

More: I asked academics what they do in their ‘free’ time. Here’s what they said. Also read “The Workaholic and Academia: in defense of #AcaDowntime

9. Whatever is used in your field
There are many subject-specific hashtags: #twitterstorians, #realtimechem, #TrilobyteTuesday#archaeology#gistribe#runology (for the study of runes, not running)… Poke around a bit and you are bound to find something to take your fancy!

(Just for fun)

10. #AcademicsWithCats Are you an academic? Do you have a cat? Then this hashtag is for you. All the cute cats and kittens you could ever need, often in academic settings.  

More: A day in the life of an academic, with cats; The first annual Academics with Cats Awards.

11. #AcademicsWithBeer If you don’t have a cat but you do love beer, this one’s for you! We have Elena Milani (@biomug) to thank for this recent edition.

More: Read the call to arms (The King’s Arms, that is).

Did I miss anything? What are your favorites? Please post a comment or tweet me @AcademiaObscura. Happy tweeting!

Academics with BEER!

I love beer. So does Elena Milani (@biomug). When the Italian Neuroscientist and SciComm expert realised that no hashtag yet existed for academic beer-lovers, she set about creating one. This is her call to arms! 

tapsThe Internet and social media are plenty of cute fluffy cats, because kittens sell, especially among academics. Everybody knows that!

But what about beer? I love craft beer (and kittens, of course), and in Twitter I’ve found many hashtags on beers such as #beer #craftbeer #beerbods #beertography #breweries #beerselfie and so on.

However, there isn’t a hashtag for academics who love beer, as me, and I was curious if beer could help me to engage others scholars in Twitter. So, I started “an experiment” launching #academicswithbeer with the help of Cristina Rigutto.

A lot of people replied, retweeted and favorited this tweet! And you are invited to join the conversation too!

You can tweet:

  • Quotes
  • Selfies
  • Sketches
  • Sketchnotes or mind maps
  • Other pics or texts

But you must include beer in your pic/text/tweet!

Now, join the #academicswithbeer stream 😉

This post originally appeared at Elena’s blog, SciCommLab.


Penguins are adorable. On this we can all agree. Perhaps it is through their sheer cuteness that they have managed to waddle their way into some rather obscure corners of academia. Here we give you our favourite Penguin papers and other tidbits. Please do let us know if you find Penguins turning up elsewhere.

A 'Penguin' diagram, before the infusion of darts, beer, and drugs.

A ‘Penguin’ diagram, before the infusion of darts, beer, and drugs.

1. Particle Physics Penguins
Perhaps the most famous use of the Penguins likeness comes from particle physics, where it is used to represent “[something very complicated in high energy physics that I don’t understand at all]”.

What is perhaps less well-known is how these diagrams came about. Originally, the Penguin diagrams looked nothing like Penguins. That all changed when John Ellis, now Professor of Theoretical Physics at King’s College London, went for a drink with Melissa Franklin and Serge Rudaz. As he recalls:1

In case you were struggling to see the resemblance...

In case you were struggling to see the resemblance…

Melissa and I started a game of darts. We made a bet that if I lost I had to put the word penguin into my next paper. She actually left the darts game before the end, and was replaced by Serge, who beat me. Nevertheless, I felt obligated to carry out the conditions of the bet.

It is worth noting that this loss was in itself rather improbable. Rudaz later admitted that for him to beat Ellis at a game of darts was a “miraculous event”: “John was a very strong player and had his own set of darts which he brought to the pub”.2 Nonetheless, Ellis now had to find some way to work Penguins into his next paper, no easy task.

For some time, it was not clear to me how to get the word into this b quark paper that we were writing at the time. Then, one evening, after working at CERN, I stopped on my way back to my apartment to visit some friends living in Meyrin where I smoked some illegal substance. Later, when I got back to my apartment and continued working on our paper, I had a sudden flash that the famous diagrams look like penguins. So we put the name into our paper, and the rest, as they say, is history.


John Ellis drawing up one of his famous physics Penguins.

Of course, the scientists were not happy with just one type of Penguin, so a new Super Penguin was subsequently spawned.3

This is just, brilliant.

This is just, brilliant.

2. Chemistry Penguins
Not to be outdone by the physicists, the chemists decided to get in on the joke. Said chemists decided that 3,4,4,5-tetramethylcyclohexa-2,5-dien-1-one was rather a dull name for a chemical. Noting that its skeletal formula looked quite like a Penguin, they decided to give it the common name Penguinone.4

1. Penguin. 2. Penguinone.

1. Penguin. 2. Penguinone.

penguin33. Penguin Poo
You may or may not be aware that Penguins, in particular Chinstrap and Adelie Penguins, defecate rather forcefully. This fact evidently proved worthy of further study to Dr. Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow and Jozsef Gal, who published a dedicated paper in Polar Biology: ‘Pressures produced when penguins pooh—calculations on avian defaecation‘. Dr. Meyer-Rochow describes how this unusual paper came to be:5

Our project started in Antarctica during the first (and only) Jamaican Antarctic Expedition in 1993… Many photographs of penguins and their “decorated” nests were taken. Later at a slide show… I was asked by a student during question time to explain how the penguins decorated their nests. I answered: They get up, move to the edge of the nest, turn around, bend over- and shoot… she blushed, the audience chuckled, and we got the idea to calculate the pressures produces when penguins poo.


A helpful diagram.

As with many of the more unusual papers that we have found lurking in the backwaters of academia, Penguin Poo elicited a number of genuine scientific research questions.6 A palaeontologist studying dinosaur biology thought that the calculations could be applied to similar streaks found near fossil dinosaur nests, zoo-operators inquired about ‘safe’ distances for visitors, and a medical researcher was inspired to recalculate the same measures for humans, as that data was now quite old!7

Penguin poo, as it turns out, can serve another useful purpose: locating Penguin colonies from space. In a paper entitled ‘Penguins from space: faecal stains reveal the location of emperor penguin colonies‘, researchers used satellite imagery to spot distinctive brown stains on the ice, left by Emperor Penguin colonies. Using this technique, they were able to locate 10 new colony locations, reposition six known locations by over 10 km, and rule out 6 old locations.

If you are not already tired of Penguins, there is of course a huge body of research concerning these beautiful birds that can keep you amused for hours. Recent finds include decoding of a ‘language’ used by Jackass Penguins and discovery of fossils of a giant, 2m tall, Penguin. Or you can just leave it here, happy in the knowledge that Norway once knighted a Penguin :-).

Nils Olav receiving his knighthood.

Nils Olav receiving his knighthood.

  1. Ellis passed on his recollections to Mikhail Shifman, who subsequently reproduced them in the foreword to his book, ITEP Lectures in Particle Physicshttp://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-ph/9510397v1.pdf
  2. Vainshtein, A., ‘How Penguins Started to Fly’ (Sakurai Prize Lecture, 1999) http://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-ph/9906263.pdf.
  3. Dujmic, D., ‘BaBar Searches for Super-Penguins’ (September 14, 2006) SLAC Today http://today.slac.stanford.edu/a/2006/09-14.htm.
  4. The lovely people over at i can has science did a bit of digging and found that Penguinone is mentioned in the literature around 10 times, but that searches of a chemistry database produced no results. It is therefore not clear whether a chemist actually named this molecule, or whether the internet has worked its magic and nobody has the heart to dispel the myth.
  5. Personal website: http://www.meyer-rochow.com/penguinpoo.htm
  6. Personal website: http://www.meyer-rochow.com/penguinqa.htm
  7. It is not immediately clear exactly what the practical application of such measurements is.