Elsewhere…: Using Social Media In Research

The first post in what will become a semi-regular series rounding up the latest news and views from around the research blogosphere. This week we’re focusing on using social media in research.

Let’s kick things off with a post from Julie Northam at Bournemouth University Research Office about the benefits of academic blogging:

Academics who blog regularly report positive outcomes, such as networking and collaborating, using royalty free photos to illustrate on what they blog about, finding new audiences and opportunities, disseminating research more widely, and building reputation. Bloggers argue that far from diluting scholarly success (as has been suggested by some academics), online writing can be a serious tool for academic practice. Blogging should be seen as part of a programme of dissemination and collaboration, and is best used alongside traditional academic outlets (such as journals) as a means of amplifying the reach and potentially the significance and future direction of the research.

If you need more than anecdotal evidence on the benefits of blogging, try this post from last November at the LSE Impact blog which shows the massive increase in views for a database of 94 papers linked to from 6 different blogs:

These increases are massive compared to the typical abstract views and downloads these papers get- one blog post in Freakonomics is equivalent to 3 years of abstract views!

Staying with the LSE blog, last week they posted a piece by Don Taylor which provides an interesting counterbalance to this view:

We absolutely need the slow, peer review system as the foundation of thoughtful, careful scholarship. Twitter and other social media are important additions that can give scholarly content “reach” and “relevancy”. However, it’s a both/and, not an either/or proposition. Traditional peer review journals should remain the bedrock of the research evidence that can be brought to bear on health policy.

This reinforces Julie’s point that blogs and Twitter should be used as part of a dissemination and impact strategy for research – they’re not the whole picture.

And using Twitter as part of the research process is on Dr Jeremy Segrott’s mind too. Last week he posted this piece evaluating his experiences of using the microblogging service for the last three months:

Twitter has been immensely helpful in keeping me up to date with new reports that are published, interesting debates among academics and health professionals, and a way of developing links with fellow researchers.  A single tweet I sent last week also generated two requests to do interviews with the BBC on topics relating to parenting and alcohol.

Impressive! But if you’re new to all of this, how do you get started in using Twitter in research? You could do worse than check out this guide put together by the good folks at the LSE Research Impact blog. It starts from the basics and covers all of the terminology (follow, retweet, mentions, hashtags), a range of tweeting styles, and the difference between using Twitter in research or for teaching.