01.14.21

#TCTM2021: A Virtual Meeting with Real-Life Tweeting

While Twitter has been in the news recently for non-hematologic reasons, another newsworthy event involving Twitter (in our minds) took place last month at the 2020 ASH meeting: the first reference to a tweetorial during a major hematology conference. While concluding her Late-Breaking Abstract presentation about driver mutations in myeloproliferative neoplasms, Dr. Jyoti Nangalia (@jyoti_nangalia) referenced her pre-written Twitter thread to encourage her audience to learn more about her research and join the conversation regarding its implications.

Twitter can foster both scientific discourse and professional networking at conferences without the limitations imposed by competing sessions, time zones, or paywalls. While the tweet-based conversations of #TCTM21 will feel different from the beach-based conversations of #BMTTandem16 in Honolulu, we hope to see Twitter serve as a home to unite our community during these challenging times. For those of you who haven’t yet adopted Twitter, it’s not too late! Herein, we describe the advantages of creating a Twitter account for use at #TCTM21 next month.

Twitter for Scientific Discourse

Paradoxically, Twitter’s strengths are the same features that may make it feel irreverent: its dual emphases on brevity and spontaneity. Individual tweets are limited to 280 characters (approximately 30-50 words) and are generally posted publicly in real time, allowing for rapidfire and spontaneous communication. For #TCTM21, Twitter can offer unique benefits for every overlapping ‘type’ of attendee:

  • Presenters: The ability to be part of the conversation surrounding one’s research, as shown in this conversation about unique toxicities of CAR-T therapy.
  • Trainees: The opportunity for on-the-fly learning about the nuances of care within hematology, for example this conversation about response assessments in B-ALL. 
  • Patient advocates: The power to ensure that the patient perspective is incorporated into scientific conferences, specifically by being ‘influencers’ of the online conversation.
  • Faculty hematologists: The ability to receive real-time ‘peer review’ on cross-cutting ideas and summaries of emerging research, as shown in this conversation about collating #ASH20 data about the treatment of multiple myeloma.
  • Casual Twitter users: In addition to posting or replying to tweets, conference attendees can ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ the tweets of others. Alternatively, attendees can simply browse Twitter to read about new research without leaving a footprint.

Twitter for Professional Networking

How do you find a new friend these days? While there’s no replacement for the spontaneity and camaraderie of real-world experiences, there is a growing community of like-minded hematologists and scientists on Twitter at your fingertips. There’s no matching service (yet!), but each tweet about #TCTM21 is an opportunity to find future collaborators, colleagues, mentors, or mentees. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Interest Groups: Sometimes the most difficult things to discuss out loud (e.g., burnout, imposter syndrome, workplace disparities, harassment, and more) are easier to discuss in an online community, as seen in this group for women in medicine.
  • Trending Hashtags: Hashtags, i.e. using the # (hashtag) symbol followed by a phrase, are convenient for following and entering active conversations. Some conferences, like #ASH20, have started to list meeting- and disease-specific hashtags like in this article and these daily prompts.
  • Journal Clubs & Chats: Audience-specific journal clubs have been active for several years, but are again on the rise and can draw an international audience (and not just trainees!) - for example, the Hematology/Oncology Journal Club (@HOJournalClub) and Health Policy Journal Club (@HPJournalClub). The AMA (@AmerMedicalAssn) has also organized topic-specific chats, for example this chat about PPE.

Twitter for Advocacy

With an open forum like Twitter, it’s only natural to consider the broad opportunities to share ideas and advocate for our patients. Important issues for the hematology community include:

  • Structural determinants of health: For example, this tweetorial which expertly summarizes issues with racism in sickle-cell disease.
  • Our scientific community: For example, a partnership started with Twitter discussions at ASCO that resulted in these critically important publications and discussions on gender disparities in how speakers are introduced at scientific conferences.
  • Pertinent legislation: For example, the ASH-coordinated #ConquerSCD and #Fight4Hematology campaigns led to the passage of “The Sickle Cell Disease and Other Heritable Blood Disorders Research, Surveillance, Prevention, and Treatment Act of 2018 (S. 2465).”
  • Patient education: For example, the ongoing #NotThrowingAwayMyShot campaign of healthcare workers posting photographs of their COVID-19 vaccination encounters to combat vaccine efficacy. Well-written #tweetorials, for example this one about how clinical trial developments, can go a long way toward raising awareness of treatment opportunities across our community.

Conclusions

Although it rarely gets news coverage for these reasons, Twitter is a powerful medium for scientific discourse, networking, and advocacy. We see #TCTM21 as an opportunity to grow our community of clinicians, scientists, patients, and advocates - ranging from decades-long committed #transplanters to newer #myellenials. While the accelerating use of Twitter is a product of the digital-only era induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, we anticipate that the ASTCT and CIBMTR will increasingly lean into Twitter-based interactions even as we return to in-person meetings.

We hope you see this as a call-to-action and look forward to seeing you online!

Follow Dr. Kelkar and Dr. Banerjee on Twitter! 

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