Social media applications – like blogs, twitter, wikis and other “web 2.0″ applications – are becoming very popular. But what sort of impact have they had in the academic context?
My university is keen to get postdocs using these tools to improve collaboration and their skills base. It has recently run a couple of courses to help people on this journey.
I went along as I’m a relative newcomer to these things and thought I’d blog the useful points in case anyone else could benefit from what I thought was interesting.
Both courses were run by Cristina Costa from the University of Salford, who really knew her stuff.
1. Developing a Researcher Profile through Social Media
This idea of an online researcher profile is becoming important.
For example, I recently had an interview for a lectureship and some of the feedback was specifically about my blog. The university was really keen to get their staff active online in the hope that potential students, particularly overseas students, will find the university via their staff’s web presence.
So, the first session looked at how you can develop a profile and how to keep on top of it. Cristina had prepared a useful image showing the tools that she had found most useful in developing her online profile.
This course was aimed at people with any level of experience. As I’d been a bit more active than most people there, I was asked to share the sort of things I’d been up to. So it seems worth quickly recounting this here as well…
I got into blogging via Twitter – seeing what other people were saying made me think that I could have something to contribute. This is especially so as blogging on climate is largely dominated by those from the “skeptic” side of things.
I had previously blogged on-and-off for NOISEmakers (a campaign trying to get people more interested in science and engineering) and when I started writing this post I remembered that I had a another blog where I used to reflect on training courses I’d attended. I suppose this post really belongs on that blog but it seems relevant here as well. But neither of those have had the impact of this blog.
The high point of my blogging career to date came when The Guardian linked to a post of mine in an article relating to the Institute of Physics and an evidence submission that they made to a Science and Technology Committee investigation.
So Twitter was my inspiration and I really like it – I feel like I’m part of a community on there. However, I do have one problem with it: I don’t feel like I’m free to be me on Twitter. Now that I know it represents a part of my “researcher profile” I feel the need to be relatively professional on there. This is a bit of a shame as I’ve “met” some really interesting people on Twitter and I sometimes think that I come across as quite boring! I suppose I could go down the route of having a second, personal account but, as yet, I’ve not done that.
This session was most useful for me as time to reflect on what I’ve been doing but I also found out about a nice tool called Slideshare, which I might start using.
2. Social Media for Research: Collaboration, Resources & Dissemination
This session was really useful.
For example, the project I’ve been associated with for the last couple years have tried to use wikis to coordinate the research and keep everyone up to date. However, they’ve failed to achieve much, largely because no-one really knew what to do with them or even how to edit them. So now that I have a few ideas of how to get a wiki working, I’ll set one up for my new project, which starts soon.
I think the best way to summarise this session is with a list of the sort of tools we looked at, with an example of each type. I’ve also included my experience of each one following the link:
Its going to take me a while to get to grips with all these tools and I expect some of them will be a waste of time. I can, though, see that some of them will make processes more effective and make my work more visible to more people.