A Reddit AMA (or Ask Me Anything) is an online event using the social news website Reddit, which allows users from all over the world to ask questions and interact with experts in particular fields.
Reddit is divided into a number of different subreddits, each with their own moderators, rules and community. The subreddit r/AskScience involves users asking scientific questions for the community to answer and hosts AMA’s from researchers. This subreddit has been previously used by researchers from the University of Bath and includes content from both physical and social sciences.
An AMA gives you the opportunity to engage with public groups from across the world who are interested in your topic area. Interactions take place through text meaning you can engage with people who might not normally feel comfortable asking questions in person or who couldn't attend an in person event. Reddit moderators are also on hand to manage any inappropriate questions.
How does an AMA work?
To start you need to provide a short title and description for your Reddit AMA post. This will include some information about yourself, your area of research and what kind of topic you can answer questions on. This will then be added to the reddit board by the moderators and users will post questions for you to answer.
At an agreed time, you can log into reddit and answer the questions left by users. Reddit users ‘upvote’ the most popular questions and these will appear at the top of your page. Normally researchers spend around an hour answering questions before logging off, but this can be adjusted to fit your schedule.
This is a great opportunity to learn what parts of your research are most interesting to a public audience and understand the relevance and importance of your research as well sharing your knowledge with people from around the world.
Who is the Audience?
The audience depends on which subreddit you are using; r/AskScience has 18.8 million users, most whom are American and already have a keen interest in science. If you are interested in reaching different audiences, you can look for different topic specific subreddits who might be interested in your topic area. For example you could try r/UKPolitics or r/Bath or another subreddit related to your research area.
Take part as a group
Reddit often hosts AMA's from groups of researchers and this can be a rewarding activity to take part in with your colleagues so you can discuss the answers to questions before answering.
Kate Woodthorpe and Hannah Rumble from the Centre for Death and Society took part in an AMA and found it was a valuable opportunity to discuss answers to questions on speakerphone as they responded. They found that doing the AMA as a team made it an enjoyable social experience as well as a valuable public engagement activity.
The Public Engagement Unit have been working to create digital engagement opportunities. If you would like to take part in an AMA or one of our Research at Lunchtime talks on Facebook Live or the online Minerva Series then please get in touch to find out more.
Rob Cooper is Public Engagement Officer at the University of Bath.