December 2013

An introduction to the scientific communities on Reddit

Reddit logoThere are multiple online sources for scientific content; however, there are not necessarily many places online where people with varying scientific backgrounds are able to come together to discuss science. One place online where people can casually come together to discuss a variety of scientific topics is Reddit.
Reddit is an Internet link aggregator where people can post links or text posts (called “self-posts”), and then users in the community can comment and up-vote or down-vote the post and comments. Up-voting a post or comment makes it more visible to the rest of the community, allowing Reddit users to decide which content is most relevant.

Tips for new Reddit users

  • • Read the rules: Every subreddit has different rules about what content can be posted and what kinds of comments are acceptable.
  • • Be considerate of other users: Remember, there is a person on the other side of that username, so don’t be rude to him or her.
  • • Use correct grammar and spelling: Check over your post or comment before submitting. Be especially careful with post titles, considering that you cannot edit them after the fact.
  • • Don’t be so quick on the draw: Read the article or post before voting on it.
  • • Don’t down-vote simply because you disagree or dislike the person who posted it: Down-vote if a comment doesn’t contribute to the conversation.
  • • Make comments that contribute to the conversation: Comments consisting only of “I agree,” “up-vote” or “lol” don’t add to the conversation.
  • • Post content to the most appropriate subreddit.
  • • Avoid re-posting links that have been posted recently.

There are myriad topic categories on Reddit, which are divided into “subreddits.” Each subreddit has its own set of rules concerning the nature of acceptable posts. There are several science-related subreddits where users can view and submit a variety of different posts, from asking serious questions about an everyday concept to making a joke about something that happened in the lab. The scientific communities within these subreddits are a way for people with professional scientific backgrounds as well as people who simply have an interest in science to come together and discuss new things.
Two of the most popular science subreddits, /r/AskScience and /r/Science, cover a variety of scientific topics. /r/AskScience is where anyone can ask a well-thought-out scientific question and get a proper answer from a panel of scientists or other users who are familiar with said topics. /r/AskScience is heavily moderated to keep jokes and memes to a minimum, allowing people to focus on the science instead. In /r/Science, there are only direct links to articles or summaries about recently published, peer-reviewed research. This subreddit also is heavily moderated to keep nonserious discussion to a minimum.
However, there are also more casual subreddits with more specialized topics, such as /r/chemistry, /r/biology, /r/biochemistry, /r/LadiesofScience and /r/labrats. The rules pertaining to acceptable submissions are more relaxed in some of these subreddits compared to /r/AskScience and /r/Science. In /r/chemistry, /r/biology and /r/biochemistry, it is more acceptable to ask questions about career paths and lab work related to the subreddit topic. /r/LadiesofScience is meant for women who are involved in science to ask questions and talk about their experiences, although everyone is welcome to post there. In /r/labrats, users can request advice regarding new protocols or experiments gone awry, as well as tell funny lab-related stories. A couple of other specialized subreddits are /r/physics and /r/math.

Anna ShipmanAnna Shipman ( is a Ph.D. student in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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