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Social Media Guidelines

November 2014

Social media include all forms of electronic communication on the Internet (including multidirectional communication, such as blogs, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube) through which users create and use online communities to share information.

These Guidelines apply to all UCAR employees and representatives who create, use, or contribute to all forms of social media. Social media is public, so consider and treat online comments the same way you would your public comments at a meeting or other public forum. UCAR expects its employees to act with integrity and to behave in ways that merit public trust and confidence, including while engaging in and using social media.

The Guidelines

1) Separate work from play.

UCAR social media assets (UCAR-provided and -supported communications tools, including UCAR email or a UCAR Google+ account) should be reserved for legitimate business purposes. Use a separate personal account for your non-business communications. Use a non-UCAR, personal email address when starting a personal social networking account. Do not use your UCAR social media asset for other than legitimate business reasons.

UCAR does not prohibit employees from engaging in commercial endorsement or political/religious advocacy in their personal lives, but UCAR systems and equipment, including UCAR social media assets, may not be used to promote or endorse commercial products or political causes or positions; they may not be used for personal commercial gain; and they may not be used to advocate religious beliefs.

Keep in mind that your opinions and activities can be perceived as coming from our organization when you post to a UCAR social media asset or present yourself as an NCAR or UCAR employee or representative on non-UCAR social media.

If NCAR or UCAR is a subject of the content you are creating, be clear that your views do not represent the views of the organization. Further, if you publish or post material or opinions online related to the work you do or the subjects associated with NCAR or UCAR, clearly state that these are your personal views and not do not reflect the opinions of NCAR/UCAR.

2) Know the rules.

A number of UCAR policies apply to social media use. Applicable policies include:

2-1 Ethical Conduct

2-2 Congressional & Agency Interactions & Lobbying

3-1 Official Communications

3-2 Intellectual Property & Technology Transfer

3-4 Solicitation & Distribution of Materials

3-5 Publication and Information Dissemination

3-6 Access to and Use of Computer & Information Systems

3-7 Academic Freedom and Responsibilities

You are responsible for what you publish online.

3) Understand the role of NCAR/UCAR Communications.

Communications manages the organization's top-level social media channels, representing NCAR/UCAR research, education, facilities, services, and administration as a whole, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube, under the AtmosNews identity. Communications staff are available to consult and advise on best practices for strengthening the organization's presence on social media.

4) Get prior authorization.

UCAR social media accounts/channels intended to represent an NCAR or UCAR lab, division, program, project, office, or group (a “Unit”) of any size should:

  • Be created only after approval by the director of the Lab or Program in which the Unit resides (or the director's designated staff);
  • Support and accurately represent the mission of the Unit as a whole;
  • Have a minimum of two responsible site administrators:
    • Site login and after-hours contact information for all site administrators should be on record with the Unit's administrative staff; 
    • Site administrators should arrange for and assure staff monitoring and access to the site at all times, including coverage during work absences; 
    • For blogs, mini-blogs, and similar media, whenever possible include a link within the site's About, Information, Bio, or similar section to UCAR's Terms of Use;
  • Follow UCAR best practices for maintaining the security of all social media accounts;
  • Be expressly subject to and compliant with UCAR's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy;
  • If the UCAR social media channel is accessible by the public,

    • require any invited external contributors, including guest bloggers, to acknowledge and agree to:
      • the publication of their name and relevant social media identity (no anonymous external contributors);
      • comply with all editorial requests from the blog's or channel's designated NCAR/UCAR editor. The editor should review guest content, apply UCAR's Policies and these Social Media Guidelines to such content, and publish it only if in compliance with these Guidelines and UCAR policies.
    • when comments are allowed, display the following Comments Policy:

    We encourage the free exchange of ideas. Discussion is welcome but uncivil discourse, including vulgar language, personal attacks, or offensive terms targeting individuals or groups is not.

    We expect participants to treat one another with respect and will remove comments and/or prevent future posting by anyone who fails to do so. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also be removed, as will any promotion of or links to products or services. All comments are governed by UCAR's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Once your channel is approved and online, please contact Communications so that the new channel can be added to the Social Media at NCAR & UCAR web page.

5) Be professional, honest, accurate.

  • Stay within your expertise. Use social media to represent your areas of expertise and provide your perspective on your own work. "Write what you know."
  • Be accurate. As a scientific organization we value the public's trust in the veracity of our content. If you are unfamiliar with a topic or its accuracy, have your content reviewed by a knowledgeable colleague before posting.
  • Be honest. The value of social media is in presenting your unique voice and perspective. Honesty will give you and the institution credibility. Never represent UCAR, NCAR, or yourself in a false or misleading way.
  • Be judicious. Do not violate confidentiality, privacy, or legal guidelines. Never post any content that is considered confidential by UCAR, a sponsor, or any third party. Protect yourself and others and do not post any information or images that are either private or sensitive.
  • Obey copyright laws. Do not post copyrighted materials that you do not have the right to post.
  • Be responsive. Social media are most powerful when they facilitate dialogue. Answer inquiries in timely fashion. Moderate comments as quickly as possible.
  • Be accountable. Require user registration (no anonymous comments) on sites open to the public and include a brief privacy statement on your registration form stating the scope of your use of private information. To make registration less of an obstacle, consider providing the option of signup via the user's Twitter or Facebook account (or those of future social media megasites providing a similar service). Moderate or monitor all comments and encourage your community to flag inappropriate content if this feature is available in your commenting architecture.

6) Post only appropriate and respectful content.

Your comments are public and represent not only you but also your colleagues and the organization as a whole. Be fair and courteous. Do not participate in spreading false rumors or unverified speculation.

7) Be safe.

Social media use involves privacy, safety, and security risks. See the Social Networking Security guidelines from NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory for ways to reduce the risks.


Contact the Director of Communications if you have questions about these Guidelines.

For additional resources and information about social media at NCAR/UCAR, see the support pages from the organization's Web Advisory Group.

Last updated on August 20, 2015 - 9:09pm.
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