3 ways that social media can benefit researchers


As the Geocaching Librarian Andrew Spencer pointed out  in his post Can you hear us?, most Australian university libraries are looking to expand their services to support researchers, including assisting them to develop their social media presence.

An important part of the role of the librarians charged with providing such support is to articulate to researchers the benefits of engaging in this important sphere of activity.

Brian Kelly, a researcher from Bath University (who blogs at UK Web Focus), recently presented a paper at the Social Media in Social Research Conference entitled  “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities

The paper focuses on three key areas –  engaging with peers, enhancing research impact, and increasing awareness – and uses case studies to illustrate the ways in which social media can be of benefit in these areas.

1. Enhancing engagement with one’s peers

Professional social networks such as conferences , as well as online services like ResearchGate are important ways in which researchers make new contacts, meet new collaborators, and extend professional networks.

Twitter compounds this benefit by enabling researchers to tweet about their papers, elicit responses from people with similar interests and thus make new connections.  When conference presenters make their Twitter ID and the conference hashtag available, the discussion is amplified as people share their thoughts via Twitter.

 2. Enhancing impact and maximising dissemination

Some ideas for being pro-active in the use of social media to maximise awareness of a research presentation are:

1. upload the paper to your institution’s repository

2. create a short URL for the paper (eg by using bit.ly) to use in tweets

3. design slides to facilitate amplification of ideas and links

4. upload slides to Slideshare

5. write blog posts about the paper in advance of the presentation

6. engage in Twitter discussion using the event’s hashtag

3. Enhancing awareness of one’s research activities

Studies have showed that using global research profiling services such as LinkedIn, Academic.edu and ResearchGate may enhance the discoverability of papers.  On these sites you can simply put links to the papers held in an institutional repository, however uploading them to these sites in addition to this provides greater accessibility.

Kelly provides the following advice for new Twitter users to develop a professional network:

1. create an account

2. provide biographical details, summary of your interests and a link to a relevant website

3. seek to tweet on a regular basis on things that are of interest to you

4. use twitter analytics (such as SocialBro) to understand how those you follow use twitter

If a researcher or research group is thinking about using social media, some things to consider are:

1. be specific about details of intended use

2. summarise the perceived benefits

3. document the perceived risks

4. summarise opportunities missed if you fail to make use of the social web

5. consider the costs and resource implications

6. discuss approaches to risk minimization

7. use evidence to back up arguments

Having read this useful paper, I now feel better equipped to inform researchers how they can effectively use social media and start reaping the benefits that can come from it.


Thanks to my colleague Kitty for alerting me to the paper

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