Why should researchers use social media? – Particularly blogging and Twitter.
This was the question I answered as guest speaker at two presentations this past year: The Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum hosted by the Institute for Knowledge Mobilization; and a Co-Production workshop hosted by the Research Exchange for the Social Sciences Unit at the University of Sheffield. Both events brought together academic and community-based researchers, business and government leaders and non-profit organizations to discuss knowledge mobilization (KMb) efforts and how to make the most of new technologies and directions in research and knowledge exchange activities.
I will also be attending the first UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum (#UKMbF14/@UKKMbf) in February 2014 and will again be actively involved in the next Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum (#ckf14/@KMbW_Updates) in June 2014.
Register for the UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum 2014
Register for the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum 2014
My presentation was titled New Tools and Rules for Research: Knowledge Mobilization Initiatives Using Social Media.
One of the broader definitions I like to use to define knowledge mobilization (or knowledge mobilisation with an “s” if you happen to live in the U.K.) is putting available knowledge into active service to benefit society.
As co-author on publications that include a peer-reviewed paper on the use of clear language research summaries, a book chapter on applying social science research for public benefit using KMb and social media, blogging 768 posts at Kmbeing.com over five years with almost 35,000 views from over 140 countries, and being named one of Canada’s top-ten knowledge mobilization influencers in 2011 and 2012, I was honored to be asked to present and answer the question why should researchers use social media? – Particularly blogging and Twitter.
The world of the Ivory Tower is definitely changing from a former world of more cloistered research knowledge and disciplines to a world of more open and networked interdisciplinary research collaborations. Academia has become partnered more with community-based researchers at the local level – thanks in great part to knowledge mobilization beginning to be officially integrated into the structure of universities. Outstanding examples of this are the ten Canadian universities of ResearchImpact (@researchimpact), and in the U.K. the Community University Partnerships Program (CUPP/@cuppbrighton) at the University of Brighton, the Research Exchange Unit at the University of Sheffield (RESS/@IMPACTSheffield), as well as the Research Unit for Research Utilisation (RURU/@UniofEdinburgh) and Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR/@CRFRtweets) at the University of Edinburgh.
And while universities are networking more with the local community (such as the collaborative work being done between York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and United Way York Region/@unitedwayyork) universities and the local community are also networking more with the international community as seen by the continuing connections that have emerged among the organizations mentioned above – all with the use of social media – particularly because of initial connections made by blogging and Twitter.
Blogging and Twitter can be used for knowledge/research dissemination in your own local community and there’s also the possibility of broader interest and exchange as a worldwide knowledge networking tool. There are opportunities for knowledge sharing, learning and research collaboration – both academic and community-based – within the local community and the global community.
Two recent and important articles specifically about why academics blog can be found here and here – and one on why academics are afraid to tweet here as well as an article on the adoption of social media in the scientific community here.
Twitter also provides you with real time search capabilities for any topic (research or otherwise) using a hashtag (#) at the beginning of any word search (such as #KMb). There are also regularly organized tweetchats such as the monthly #KmbChat hosted by @KmbChat that takes place every fourth Thursday bringing together a wide-variety of international knowledge mobilization stakeholders and interested tweeters. (To join the conversation follow @KMbChat on Twitter; then, point your browser here to follow the hashtag #KMbChat).
And it’s absolutely free to participate, search and retrieve with no pay-wall.
With more prestigious and well-respected university, health, science and education Twitter accounts being found online (@UniofOxford @Harvard @Princeton @Univ_of_Tokyo @unimelb @LSERsrchOnline @royalsociety @CIHR_IRSC @SSHRC_CRSH @PLOS @GlobalHigherEd) finding quality research links through Twitter is becoming much easier. And as Twitter provides the ability to retweet Twitter posts on relevant knowledge and research subjects, it connects you with a broader community that now includes that larger variety of research communities.
So, although blogging and Twitter can be used to cast WIDE, the advantage of these social media tools is that they can also be used effectively to NARROW IN on common research topics or subject matter to create online communities of common interests – locally and globally.
Twitter has also been used at conferences to leverage research through live-tweeting sound-bites that can disseminate conference content and discuss conference research presentations with other conference audience members as well as share conference proceedings with remote participants.
Social media – especially Twitter – is pushing society from an information age to a broader, connected knowledge and research collaboration age. Academic and community-based researchers, health, education and social services organizations have begun to pay attention to the growth, relevance and use of social media for knowledge mobilization that include:
- New and innovative research collaborations leading to possibilities of developing further research and broader and faster dissemination of findings
- Potential links for research funding opportunities
- Obtaining research samples
- Leveraging your own and other researchers’ work
- Interactions across and beyond your research discipline, institution or profession
- Getting quick answers to your questions or answering those of others from around the world to compare and contrast different contexts for global knowledge development
Researcher Melissa Terra in the Department of Information Studies at University College London shows how blogging and tweeting to make all of her 26 articles about computational technologies available was worth it. All Terra’s articles were originally published in peer-reviewed journals.
Most of my papers, before I blogged and tweeted them, had one to two downloads, even if they had been in the repository for months (or years, in some cases). Upon blogging and tweeting, within 24 hours, there were on average seventy downloads of my papers.
Why should researchers use social media? – Particularly Twitter.
- To create online networks to better understand which issues are important to various stakeholders
- To get more immediate and valuable feedback on your research as a faster and in more ways more effective form of the long and drawn-out process of peer-review
- To meet other academics and researchers locally and globally who are interested in your work in real-time using a social media tool that can create on-going research relationships
The bottom line – Twitter can be a valuable part of your academic or community-based research dissemination/exchange strategies, ways to find research and create communities and opportunities to co-produce new research AND – ultimately and hopefully – make the world a better place through knowledge mobilization with the use of social media.