From Social Media Research, to Researchers & Social Media

IMG_0182This week saw a slight shift in focus for one member of the CaSMa team, as Chris went out to speak to doctoral students about how social media can be used not only as a promising site for academic research, but to raise the profile of their work and professional reputation as researchers.

Though only starting as a Research Fellow in October of last year,  the sheer variety of the role has already become readily apparent!  To date, Elvira, Ansgar, Ramona and I have dabbled in everything from submitting conference abstracts, writing papers and starting social media ethics-focused research projects, to running workshops, pitching for business audiences and of course, keeping you, our valued reader, updated with all of the above through social media!

I want to use our blog post this week to tell you a little bit about some of the work I have started to do this last week with students based in the Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) both here at the University of Nottingham, and then across the country as part of the Digital Economy Network (DEN), which includes ten CDTs located across the country, all working within the UK Research Council’s  Digital Economy theme.

First up, I was very excited to be invited to speak to doctoral students studying within the ESRC CDTs based here at the University of Nottingham. The talk was a great chance for me to integrate some of the research interests that I have developed throughout the course of my PhD, and provide some (hopefully useful!) insights into how social media can be used to showcase research.

As you will be able to see in the slides linked below, what I particularly wanted to get across was that a huge range of free and accessible opportunities are available to researchers in helping them to enable others to find their academic work, and that a good place to start thinking about which to use is how well they rank in search engine results. It was particularly interesting for me to hear back from students that the accuracy of the first page search findings for their names ranged from as low  as 0% to as high as 90% in a few cases!

It might seem a fairly simplistic approach to thinking about digital reputation management, but in a digital society where 93% of recruiters use social media to look for and check applicants, the top results of a quick search engine query have become an increasingly important consideration for researchers.

The remainder of my presentation drew upon personal experiences where social media had led directly to a number of opportunities to get my own research noticed, and closed with a really interesting discussion of social media “role models”, followed by a variety of great questions about what to do if you don’t have many publications already (re. Google Scholar), or if you are receiving a lot of time-consuming requests from students or potential collaborators (re. ResearchGate).

Fast forward just a day and I found myself once again speaking to CDT students – although this time in the rather plush  and picturesque surroundings of the Digital Catapult offices, based on Euston Road, London!

All ready to present, whilst St Pancras lurks in the background

My own contribution to the session was related to a role that I have recently taken on as Social Media Advocate for the UK Research Council’s Digital Economy Network (DEN). The main components of the role are to develop DEN’s social media presence, much like we are trying to achieve here with CaSMa, in order to help CDTs based across the country to communicate their research more effectively, both externally and amongst one another, and support various events that will be going on throughout the year.

A couple of the upcoming events for 2015 that look particularly interesting are a CDT Summer School to be held at the University of Southampton, which is likely to feature a focus on social media research ethics (hurray!), and the Digital Shoreditch Festival held in May, which will bring together individuals and companies working with technology in a variety of respects, all in a format similar to the increasingly popular South by Southwest (SXSW) festival held in Austin, Texas.

Another key part of the Social Media Advocate role is similar to that of my activities on the previous day – visiting the CDTs and delivering workshops for doctoral students on the use of social media as researchers. The session itself was a great opportunity to get some important feedback on what might be required by the CDTs, and much of my presentation focused on presenting potential ideas and perhaps most excitingly, using some very fancy acetate flipchart sheets that stuck effortlessly to the floor-to-ceiling windows all around the room!

Great ideas require fancy flipchart sheets and a great view!
Great ideas require fancy flipchart sheets and a great view!

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of both days with regards to our work at CaSMa came through my conversations with the doctoral students who are currently doing research with social media data. It was reassuring to hear that ethical considerations appear to be a key component of their planning, and I very much look forward to hearing more as I start to visit the CDTs in the DEN.

First things first though, I shall start with the “Social Media Ethics” workshop I will be running with Horizon CDT students on the Tuesday of this coming week – it promises to be a really interesting session. In the meantime, stay tuned for more insights from these sessions with CDT students to follow!

~ Chris

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