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@WomeninStat + Rotating Curators = Success

1 December 2021 726 views No Comment

The ASA Committee on Women in Statistics and Data Science has a rotating curator every month for its Twitter account. We wanted to know how the committee manages its rotation and what engagement strategies its members use to make @WomenInStat. so successful, so we sat down with Lucy D’Agostino McGowan, chair of the Committee on Women in Statistics, and Hannah Mendoza, @WomeninStat rotating curator coordinator, and asked the following questions:

Hannah Mendoza, you handle the behind-the-scenes Twitter account for @WomeninStat. How did that start?

Hannah: During my final year of undergrad at Wake Forest University, I was a member of the D’Agostino McGowan Data Science Lab, where Lucy (my professor) advised me on my senior thesis project. I studied mathematics, but I wanted to do a project on the statistics side, as I had taken a few courses in statistics that piqued my interest. Lucy’s focus on statistical communication resonated with me. During a lab meeting one evening in Fall 2020, Lucy asked if anyone would be interested in helping out with organizing and facilitating transitions between rotating curators for @WomenInStat. I volunteered because it seemed like a great way to learn from other women and minority-gendered people in the field through their diverse backgrounds and interests, as well as from how they communicate effectively and engage others on Twitter.

What prompted the committee to join Twitter?

Lucy: Last year, when Stephanie Hicks was the chair of the Committee on Women in Statistics, we were looking for ways to engage the broader community more. Inspired by the R-Ladies rotating curator account (@WeAreRLadies), we decided to kick off one of our own! It has been an amazing team effort. Hannah handles a lot of the behind-the-scenes work along with Stephanie and our current chair-elect, Eunice Kim. And, of course, we rely on all the amazing curators who have made it such a success!

@WomenInStat has more than 19,000 followers. What do you attribute the success to?

Lucy: I think it is really a testament to the behind-the-scenes team and all the amazing people we’ve had come through as curators! Since our kickoff in June of 2020, we’ve had more than 60 curators ranging across academia, industry, and government from varying backgrounds and at all levels of experience.

Hannah: The community—curators and followers—is super encouraging and passionate, and I think that makes @WomenInStat just a rather pleasant and inspiring place to be on the internet! And, of course, getting to host such a wonderful and diverse set of curators has drawn an audience that wants to learn about others and what excites and matters to them.

Describe your monthly plan. What actions and tools do you use to organize and manage the curators?

Hannah: We keep it simple and use GitHub and lots of tools in the G Suite! GitHub helps us centralize information for admins on managing the account and link to our resources such as a curator guide and our schedule (in Google Sheets). Curators sign up via a Google Form, so we have the survey responses in Google Sheets. We use these responses to generate an introductory graphic for each rotating curator (in Google Slides), which we tweet out from the @WomenInStat account at the beginning of each week to announce that week’s curator (See Figure below). We also monitor these responses for new sign ups so we can add them to our schedule. We communicate with curators through a central email (Gmail) to facilitate scheduling and sharing instructions.

Example introductory graphic for rotating curators

Another super important tool for us is TweetDeck, a platform for managing Twitter accounts with multiple contributors or admins without having to share login information between accounts. This makes the weekly hand-off between curators really simple!

You can also schedule future tweets through TweetDeck, which is useful for us as admins and for our curators. One way we use this feature is to facilitate new curator sign ups. Every two weeks, we have a scheduled tweet as a reminder of the purpose of @WomenInStat: to highlight and uplift voices of women in statistics and data science! And we share a link to the signup form to encourage others to curate for a week. This link is also in our bio for people to learn more and sign up! Our curators are also really great at encouraging others to sign up, no matter their background or experience level, which has helped create a culture around supporting and uplifting each other.

What tips can you offer sections, chapters, or individuals who would like to become active on Twitter?

Lucy: I am a huge fan of these rotating accounts, both from the perspective of the groups that run them and as a follower of several! They offer a great way to engage with the community and figure out what others are working on. I hope more sections and chapters think about using this model in the future. For individuals, I have found a great way to get started is to try creating short summaries of recent happenings in your field. I started out by tweeting about talks at conferences I was attending—it was a great way to practice distilling complex information down into a few short tweets. I’ve always found that I understand topics better when I try to teach them—tweeting even more so since it requires pulling out the big ideas and trying to squeeze them into 280 characters (and finding the perfect emojis / gifs to get the points across!).

Share with us your favorite go-to websites for learning about social media.

Lucy: We have some tips for curating that we adopted from the R-Ladies documents in our GitHub repository. Shannon Pileggi gave a poster at the Women in Statistics and Data Science conference hosted this past October that gave some great tips for curating. In 2020, Jessica Lavery moderated a Caucus for Women in Statistics Lunch & Learn on creating a professional online presence and navigating social media. She has a great write-up about it on her blog.

What topics get your followers ‘talking’?

Lucy: Daniela Witten curated for us last year and tweeted about being a parent in academia, academic privilege, and training the next generation of statisticians. She also had an awesome thread, “It’s just a linear model!”, where she walked through a bunch of models and explained how just about everything boils down to a linear model. These topics were all super popular and generated a ton of great discussions.

I took a peek at the data from the last few months to see what generated the most chatter. We had a great thread on math and democracy, ‘cheat sheets’ for coding in R, and one with resources for learning causal inference. In general, it seems when the curators tweet about things they are excited and passionate about, engagement follows.

What do you consider the biggest benefit of being on Twitter?

Lucy: Community is so important—it makes life worth living! Getting to hear from other people in the field about what they are excited about these days is such a joy, and Twitter is one tool to facilitate this. It is definitely not perfect, but I have really loved meeting and getting to know people I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to hear from.

Hannah: And so many communities already exist on Twitter! So, using Twitter lets us tap into and enrich existing communities through hashtags (#rstats, etc.) and when people share our curators’ content to their own audiences and add their own insights. Twitter’s infrastructure is great at facilitating learning and enabling discussion between people who may not cross paths otherwise. Using Twitter helps to make these communities and opportunities to learn and share resources more accessible.

Follow @WomeninStat on Twitter and learn more about curating or sign up to curate.

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