Social media: A guide for researchers (Cameron Neylon case study)

Added by Catherine Gray on 07 February 2011 18:09

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Cameron Neylon

I work at STFC in the ISIS Neutron Scattering Facility where my job is focussed on encouraging a wider use of the neutron scattering by biological scientists. It’s a mixture of public relations, user support, methods development, and specific research. Since moving here I’ve got more involved in online tools and other projects associated with managing data, working with the web, scholarly communications, advocacy, as well as the regular work stuff of supporting users, building systems and infrastructure for support, and developing methods.

I often get information about my job and research from online sources, blogs, twitter, comments, which might point me towards more traditional pieces that I should read. I do that because online data in my specific research area is sparse and badly managed so there isn’t much there.

Social media is the single most important mechanism for me to explore ideas, have conversations, and suggest new ideas. Those conversations take place across Twitter, blogs, email groups, Friend feed, and some other services. It’s quite diverse but you need to go where the community is that you want to communicate with and for me that is increasingly not a traditional academic research audience. But papers are what will determine if I get a promotion…

I first started using social media because I think I came from a place where it was clear to me that as researchers we needed to publish more effectively to support better development of theory around what were very empirical areas. So it was initially about effective data sharing. Then I got interested in the more general ideas of effective communication on the web and found there was a community already out there. I wanted both to be able to record my own ideas in this space in a way that was ‘native’ to it and to engage with that community so blogging was a natural course to take.

Probably to a certain extent social media have affected my work-life balance in a negative way. Being able to be always connected isn’t always healthy. But equally I think it does help me to do some things more efficiently. To a certain extent as an academic researcher you’re always going to be working at or beyond capacity, it goes with the territory.

Cameron Neylon’s blog: Science in the Open

The main project page for Social media: A guide for researchers is here.

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