In an interesting article published in PLOS Biology (An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists), Holly Bik and Miriam Goldstein explain how scientists can harness the advantages of social media tools to increase the visibility and impact of their research, among other things.
To do this, however, they must first learn how to use these tools properly.
As Kathryn Eccles (University of Oxford) stated in an article in The Guardian, the advent of the Internet and social media has made it necessary to reinvent academic life in this new digital age.
In this article we will look at two tools: blogs and Twitter.
For researchers, keeping a blog or participating in a group blog can bring numerous advantages:
- Blogs help to increase the impact of publications and the chances of being cited.
- They generate conversations among researchers through comments and replies.
- They can be used to share resources and results.
- They provide an inexpensive way of sharing knowledge with the general public.
- They can be used as a teaching tool.
- They allow researchers to build a personal brand and gain/strengthen online presence.
The importance of blogging for a researcher is highlighted in this commendable article by Patrick Dunleavy and Chris Gilson from the London School of Economics, who explain in detail the value of academic blogs and other forms of social media communication.
With regards to Twitter, studies have shown that researchers who disseminate their articles through this social network see a considerable increase in the number of downloads and citations. In this post, Melissa Terras (University College London) shows how disseminating an article though the social media increases the number of downloads (in some cases by as much as tenfold).
So, you are a researcher and have just signed up to Twitter...now what? Fortunately, several institutions have published Twitter guides to promote its use in academia. These guides are a good illustration of the interest that Twitter has evoked in the academic world and are aimed at people who want to get started or to hone their skills. The first such guide was published by the London School of Economics and gives advice on a range of aspects, from how to open an account to how to manage followers. The second guide, published by the Research Councils of the UK (a partnership of seven UK research councils), provides seven essential tips for academics on how to use Twitter. Both resources are very useful tools for scientists who wish to enter the fascinating world of Twitter.
Blogging, tweeting and building—and keeping—a sensible digital presence can help to improve our online reputation. The need to have a digital presence and to acquire the necessary know-how and skills has led to the creation of programmes such as 23 Things for Research, a successful, open-access, online course for researchers, students and staff at the University of Oxford. The aim of the course is to encourage staff and students to use digital tools in their personal and professional lives. And it goes without saying that learning to blog was one of the main components of this course. Closer to home, between February and April 2013, the University of Girona ran what is known as a MOOC (massive online open course) called Scientific Research 2.0.1: Key Processes in a Digital Society on the MiriadaX Platform. The aim of such courses is in line with the statement “I am me and my digital circumstance” by one of the most acclaimed experts in Science 2.0 in Spain, Professor Miquel Duran (University of Girona), author of the blog Edunomia. The essence of this statement is that a researcher’s online visibility may yield interesting returns and benefit his or her research.
In conclusion, the dissemination of research through Web 2.0 tools such as blogs and Twitter should be part of a researcher’s everyday work. Many researchers lack the time to do any actual research as they are subject to the “publish or perish” or “transfer or die” pressure. In this regard, it would be interesting to develop a recognition or award system aimed at promoting the communication of science through the social networks.
Second Seminar on Scientific Information Management (JGIC-2013): Round Table on Science 2.0 (in Catalan)