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Social Media Handbook for researchers and supervisors

Source: Unknown, 16 November 2012

Vitae and The Open University have launched a Handbook of Social Media for Researchers and Supervisors: Digital technologies for research dialogues. Funded through Vitae Innovate and developed by Dr Shailey Minocha and Prof Marian Petre (both MCT)| this handbook aims to assist researchers and their supervisors to adopt and use social media tools in the service of their research| and| in particular in engaging in the discourse of research. The handbook presents an innovative suite of resources for developing and maintaining a social media strategy for research dialogues.

Social media such as wikis, blogs, social bookmarking tools, social networking websites (e.g. Facebook), or photo- and video-sharing websites (e.g. Flickr, YouTube) facilitate gathering and sharing of information and resources and enable collaboration. Social media is a new form of communication that is changing behaviours and expectations of researchers, employers and funding bodies.

In a one-year project funded by VITAE, our goal was to investigate whether and how postgraduate researchers and early career researchers are using social media tools in their research dialogues. Our specific aims were to develop a suite of resources to assist researchers to evaluate and choose social media tools, and to develop a social media strategy for research discourse with peers, supervisors and the community at large. Over a year, we investigated whether and how postgraduate researchers and early career researchers were using social media tools in their re search dialogues. We surveyed over 105 researchers in the UK, USA, Europe and Australia via mailing lists, discussion forums and through their presence on social media such as through their blogs, or their participation in Twitter, etc. The participants were from a variety of disciplines because we wanted to capture discipline variances both in terms of need and application. In our empirical research, we were not concerned about the use of social media by research teams in sharing research data in social sciences, sciences and humanities, or the use of social media in mass collaboration projects such as in disaster response, or community safety, or in environmental conservation. We were also not concerned on the use of social media by researchers for research data collection, analysis and interpretation. Our focus was on the use of social software to support research discourse and dialogues. The survey was conducted through face-to-face meetings, workshops and email intervi ews during 2011-2012. We also interviewed some researchers who are using mobile applications (Apps) on their phones and Tablets to support their research.

We surveyed 45 supervisors in the UK and abroad and enquired how they were using technology for formal dialogues and meetings with their postgraduate and early career researchers, for informal interactions, for document authoring and for document storage. We investigated their concerns and apprehensions about social media use by their researchers. In addition, we conducted a review on a number of related topics: how social media tools can help in research and the development of research skills; how individual tools such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and so on, could support research dialogues; issues of e-professionalism or digital professionalism and the risks of using social media; the legal ramifications such as copyright issues and intellectual property rights; the ethical issues associated with conducting research involving social media tools; and the impact of cloud computing on re search practices, and the concepts of digital literacy and digital scholarship.

The output of our investigations is a 'Handbook of social media for researchers and supervisors: Digital technologies for research dialogues' which is available from this website (co-authored by Shailey Minocha and Marian Petre, Centre for Research in Computing, The Open University, UK). This handbook has been written for: postgraduate researchers (PGRs) and early career researchers who want to learn about the role of social media in research dialogues; supervisors and managers who want to expand their understanding of what social media offers, and the risks and opportunities involved. The goal of this handbook is to assist researchers and their supervisors to adopt and use social media tools in the service of their research, and, in particular, in engaging in the discourse of research. The handbook presents an innovative suite of resources for developing and maintaining a social media  strategy for research dialogues.