social mediaThe bulk of discussion around why academics use social media primarily focuses on social media as a dissemination strategy to get more citations and views of scholarly articles. But social media has also opened up new and exciting ways for researchers to collaborate online. Following an exchange on Twitter, we volunteered to pull together a reading list of posts on how researchers are using social media for collaboration and public engagement purposes. Social media use in academia is a highly active and changing landscape. The posts we’ve compiled here fall under four main themes: why researchers are using social media, digital strategies for capturing the value of social media, critical engagement with the challenges emerging, and a list of our best social media how-to guides for professional development and collaboration. 

Why do researchers use social media to communicate and collaborate online?

large_inger.mewburnAcademic blogging is part of a complex online academic attention economy, leading to unprecedented readership.
Inger Mewburn and Pat Thomson find blogging is now part of a complex online ‘attention economy’ where social media can help your work travel further. But in this new world awash with academic papers, will the highest quality papers be read most? Or will it be only those backed by the loudest voices?

tim hitchcockTwitter and blogs are not add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion that underpins it.
The role of the academic humanist has always been a public one – however mediated through teaching and publication, argues Tim Hitchcock. As central means to participate in public conversations, Twitter and blogging just make good academic sense. Hitchcock looks at how these new platforms are facilitating academic collaboration and engagement.

brent sasleyEmbracing our (non-scholarly) identities: The benefits of combining engagement with moral activism.
The characteristics and lack of boundaries in social media present clear opportunities for scholars to engage communities in analytical dialogue. Many scholars feel pressed to remain morally neutral, so it can feel risky to engage in such commentary. But Brent E. Sasley and Mira Sucharov find there may actually be intellectual and social justice benefits to exploring insider identities and connecting engagement with moral activism.

melissaterrasThe verdict: is blogging or tweeting about research papers worth it?
Eager to find out what impact blogging and social media could have on the dissemination of her work, Melissa Terras took all of her academic research, including papers that have been available online for years, to the web and found that her audience responded with a huge leap in interest in her work.

Image credit: Melissa Terras “What happens when you tweet an Open Access Paper

Developing a digital strategy and capturing the value of social media

jwSocial media outcomes in academia: engage with your audience and they will engage with you.
Social media is a great tool for sharing information, collaborating on research and interacting with a global audience. But Jessica Woolman argues that we need to implement university-wide policies to mitigate risk, strategize where possible, and track the return on investment. By focusing on objectives and strategy, we can be more efficient, effective and engaging on social media.

PN_a_HDj_400x400Scientists across disciplines must get to a better agreement on social media metrics.
Kate Wing breaks down the criteria used for Science magazine’s list of Top Scientists on Twitter and finds the approach severely lacking. With a range of tools available for measuring social media impact, simplistic measures like follower number as a proxy of influence is outdated. Is a scientist who gets the most retweets more influential than one who cultivates a network of scientists across disciplines?

davina-cooperTaking pleasure in small numbers: How intimately are social media stats governing us?
Critical academics have long been wary of the way formal quantitative data get used to rank, assess and differentially value universities, departments and people. Do similar concerns apply to social networking statistics? Or, is this data on likes, views and followers quite a different matter? At a time when pressures exist to grow one’s numbers, Davina Cooper asks whether there can be any pleasure in small numbers.

Xianwen WangFrom Attention to Citation: What are altmetrics and how do they work?
Scholarly and social impacts of scientific publications could be measured by various metrics, including article usage, Mendeley readership and Altmetric scores, etc. But what is the relationship amongst the different metrics, like social media shares and pageviews? Xianwen Wang and his colleagues recently conducted a study to answer this question.

Challenges to using social media and critical engagement with networked academia

krisshafferWith Twitter’s poor signal-to-noise ratio, should social academia look to less corporate and more localised networks?
Social media platforms have become primary means for scholars to reach public audiences, but are scholars becoming overly reliant on sub-optimal corporate networks? Kris Shaffer is hoping others will join him in writing in more open, more user-controlled domains, as well as in critiquing the corporate tools that scholars currently make use of.

Melonie_FullickTweeting out loud: ethics, knowledge and social media in academe
Traditional and digital methods of dissemination clashed recently when a storm over live-tweeting academic conferences blew up in the US. Melonie Fullick looks at the accusation that academics can ‘use’ other people’s work to build up their online brand to benefit their academic career, at the expense of others.

beerSocial media’s politics of circulation have profound implications for how academic knowledge is discovered and produced.
As social media and other new forms of media emerge as influential ways to communicate academic knowledge, David Beer argues academics may need to pay more attention to the politics of circulation that increasingly define how academic knowledge is discovered and transmitted. If we don’t understand the politics of data circulations that define contemporary media cultures then we may also find that academic practice is reshaped without sufficient reflection and reaction.

Social_Network_Analysis_VisualizationVisualization of social network analysis by MartinGrandjean (CC BY-SA, Wikimedia)

kateBy equating social media use with narcissism, the Kardashian Index joke ignores wide disparity in research ecosystem.
Named after celebrity Kim Kardashian, the K-index analyses the popularity of scientists on Twitter against the citation impact of their publications in peer-reviewed journals. We compiled three informed responses to the index by Kathryn Clancy, Jean-François Gariépy and Micah Allen which engage directly with power dynamics within the academy, metrics used to assess academic success, and the democratizing nature of social media.

M CarriganLife in the Accelerated Academy: anxiety thrives, demands intensify and metrics hold the tangled web together.
The imagined slowness of university life has given way to a frenetic pace, defined by a perpetual ratcheting up of demands and an entrepreneurial ethos seeking new and quantifiable opportunities. Mark Carrigan explores the toxic elements of this culture and its underlying structural roots. As things get faster, we tend to accept things as they are rather than imagining how they might be. But the very speed of social media may act also as a short-circuit.

durose-catherineFast scholarship is not always good scholarship: relevant research requires more than an online presence.
Blogging and social media are tools to facilitate engagement, but are they in danger of being treated as ends in themselves? Catherine Durose and Katherine Tonkiss argue for more awareness on how the research process can democratise knowledge. Rather than quickly responding to recent events, scholars should look towards sustained engagement with the participants of research and those affected by it.

How-to guides for using social media in research settings

Andy-MiahTop 5 social media platforms for research development
Social media outlets are becoming essential for academia, not just for the promotion of research but for research development as well. Andy Miah provides an overview of his top picks for the social media newbie and argues that if used well, these platforms will allow academics to digest more content, more quickly. We must figure out how to use social media in a way that enriches academic working life, but in a way that also provides some added value.

jessieFrom Tweet to Blog Post to Peer-Reviewed Article: How to be a Scholar Now
Digital media is changing how scholars interact, collaborate, write and publish. Here, Jessie Daniels describes how to be a scholar now, when peer-reviewed articles can begin as Tweets and blog posts. In this new environment, scholars are able to create knowledge in ways that are more open, more fluid, and more easily read by wider audiences.

allanjohnsonUsing Twitter for Curated Academic Content
With all the demands of academia, becoming an active curator on Twitter may sound appealing but just too onerous a task. To help ease such anxiety, Allan Johnson shares his own Twitter workflow and suggests several tools and apps, such as Pocket and Buffer, to help academics make the most of their valuable time in contributing and curating content.

twitter workflow

NicoleBeale“But who is going to read 12,000 tweets?!” How researchers can collect and share relevant social media content at conferences
Using social media to communicate at conferences allows more space and time for attendees to join discussions and network. Nicole Beale and Lisa Harris hope that archiving and visualizing the data will spark new research routes.

Using Twitter in university research, teaching, and impact activities
Our very own Twitter Guide written by Amy Mollett, Danielle Moran and Patrick Dunleavy has been shared thousands of times across social media since it was first published in 2011. Some of the examples may be a little dated, but the main thrust of the discussion and the overview it provides are still very relevant for new users.

More resources from around the web

Open to Influence: Academic Influence on Twitter, The Short Version by Bonnie Stewart in TheTheoryBlog (and here is a link to all of Bonnie Stewart’s posts on social media. Highly Recommended!)

In Public: the Shifting Consequences of Twitter Scholarship by Bonnie Stewart in Hybrid Pedagogy:

Over the past decade and more, digital networked communications have crept into scholarship. List-servs, then blogs, then social networking platforms crept into corners of scholarly practice. Twitter in particular has become a means by which many scholars create and curate public identities and share their work and that of others. But open networked scholarship is, by definition, open to those who choose to participate; the price of admission is not a degree or an accolade or a particular number of publications in the right journals. The price of admission is the willingness to engage, in public, over time, in sustained and iterative discussions over ideas and knowledge and what counts as the public good, among other things. [Read more here]

@AcademicsSay: The Story Behind a Social-Media Experiment by Nathan Hall

Measuring Impact: A Five-Step Guide for Scholarly Units – OpenUCT Guide by Michelle Willmers and Laura Czerniewicz 

Academics’ online presence: a four-step guide to taking control of your visibility – OpenUCT Guide by Sarah Goodier and Laura Czerniewicz

Socializing Scholarly Communication – a round-table by Paige Brown Jerrue in From the Lab Bench.

Cultivating an Online Profile by Melonie Fullick (Prezi)

online profile

Social Media for Academics by Dr Jojo Scoble in The Online Academic.

Online collaboration: Scientists and the social network by Richard Van Noorden in Nature.

Many thanks to Dan and Heather for sparking this discussion!

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