Social media: A guide for researchers (Alun Salt case study)

Added by Catherine Gray on 07 February 2011 18:11

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Alun Salt

I am currently working at the Student Development department in the University of Leicester and I also give lectures on various MS Office products. I am also attached to the Centre for Interdisciplinary Science and I work for the Annals of Botany on their social media site.

I prefer to discover information regarding my job by using social media like Twitter and to a lesser extend Facebook and in face-to-face talks with people from the University of Leicester. Regarding research it tends to be through skimming the journals and talking with people through email. Ancient History/ Archaeology is still strong on email lists and isn’t yet happy about the ideas of weblogs.

The reasons that made me start using social media are because it allowed me to make connections with people I couldn’t realistically do physically. It’s not practical where I live to go down to London for an hour’s seminar at 4pm

I don’t think social media made me a better researcher. If I were in a field where there were plenty of researchers then network effects might happen but in my case its closer to thinking of social media as transport. It gets you where the information is, but it doesn’t change what you do with it. Being relatively isolated, without social media connexions I simply wouldn’t have been able to be in a research community like someone campus based.

I think researchers will start using social media more, but I don’t think it will be a central feature of anyone’s life. We use word processors. They massively enhance the ability to write, and because files are re-writable we edit so much more for ourselves than we used to. How many times do you sit and write, re-write and re-re-write a sentence? Yet I can’t recall many disciplines seriously thinking about the ‘word processor revolution’ in their fields. One of the things that is a bit odd about social media isn’t so much the social effects, but that people are also talking about it. I think that shows recognition of the social element of research, which isn’t very obvious in a solitary activity like writing on a computer.

Alun Salt’s blog: alunsalt.com http://alunsalt.com

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


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