Social media for academic profile: a presentation to HATII at the University of Glasgow

HATII signLast Tuesday I was a guest of colleagues at the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII) at the University of Glasgow. They invited me over to give a presentation on social media for academic profile building along the lines of previous talks that I have given on the subject. It was Dr Ian Anderson who suggested me as a speaker having attended a training session on this theme that I ran at iDocQ in 2014.

In my presentation I first drew attention to established traditional measures of ‘academic’ impact, i.e. the influence of researchers’ publications on the work of other researchers (as opposed, for example, to their influence on policy or services development). I made reference to academics’ ambitions to produce a high quantity of high quality publications, and for these to attract citations of a similar calibre. The goal is to publish plentiful papers in peer-reviewed journals and conferences that are then indexed in citation databases and also cited by researchers who also produce the best work in the field.

There are now, however, a number of newer metrics by which the impact of our research outputs can be measured across as range of platforms. We can be judged on, for example, how often our papers are downloaded, included in course syllabi, quoted in the press, cited in policy documents, recommended by others, praised by opinion leaders, mentioned across social media. Indeed a list compiled by the University of North Texas includes 56 possible indicators of impact. This demonstrates how judgements of academic esteem rely on more than a ‘mere’ publication record. Visibility is becoming increasingly important to building a personal profile and the reputational benefits that this brings – such as collaboration approaches, speaking invitations, committee appointments.

In the next section of my presentation I made direct reference to the work that we carried out for the Research in Librarianship Impact Evaluation Study (RiLIES) in 2011. This project set out to discover the factors that contribute to making a piece of research ‘impactful’ in practical terms. I highlighted that many of the main recommendations of this study relate to how work is disseminated, in particular the format of research outputs (i.e. how content is created) and its accessibility (i.e. how it is shared).

I then discussed the value of maintaining a personal online presence. One advantage of doing so to have a ‘place’ (that you control) to profile research outputs that are less likely to be picked up by database publishers. These include contributions to less prestigious journals such as practitioner or trade titles, and unpublished contributions such as keynote speeches and other invited presentations. In addition, although commissioned research reports that are confidential cannot be made public, it is possible on your personal online profile to draw attention to the fact that such work has been undertaken.

In the remainder of the seminar I drew attention to just how many different places there are where academics might be found online:

I stressed that decisions on where to ‘be’ depend on your priorities. These may be to ensure wide dissemination of publications and/or presentations; to track impact; or to keep yourself updated and/or update others.

I emphasised that I do not advocate signing up for every single service and then commititng to maintaining multiple online presences. However, there are some essentials. At the very least, I would advise all academics have their:

  • CV details on LinkedIn (because not having a LinkedIn profile is the electronic equivalent of not having a business card to offer to new contacts)
  • Academic identity registered on the ID services
  • Publication track record updated on the profile services
  • An profile that provides links to the services on which they have a presence

I ended my presentation with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of setting up a personal blog. I did so with reference to the practices of six of the research students within the Centre for Social Informatics: Leo Appleton; Iris Buunk; Lyndsey Jenkins; John Mowbray; Alicja Pawluczuk; and Frances Ryan.

I would only advise setting up your own blog if you feel a need to maintain a fully ‘independent’ online profile, enjoy writing, and have the enthusiasm to do this in your own time. If you do decide to go ahead and set up a blog, you also need to take care over its name and your communication strategy. What will the blog cover? How frequently will you post to it? How will you direct traffic to it?

There are a number of blog alternatives that may provide a more suitable platform for those who feel that they do not have the resource or enthusiasm to commit to setting up and maintaining a full independent online presence. These include the news function on LinkedIn and in-house news functions (such as my own research institute’s IIDI news platform). There is also the opportunity to engage in ad hoc blogging on platforms such as Medium and the Conversation.

Following the delivery of my slides we discussed a number of the issues raised by the content of my presentation. These ranged from the general (for example, the value of Facebook in the work context) to the particular (for example, the need for a local news system like the IIDI news platform and the staff resource to manage it). I’m pleased that my contribution went down well with my colleagues at Glasgow, and thank them all – including Ian Anderson, Maria Economou, Ann Gow, Johanna Green, Lorna Hughes and Wasananikornkulchai Lertchai – for inviting me along and being such an appreciative audience.

My presentation slides can be seen below.

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