Answers to some questions from my presentation on social media and research

I’ve just got back from presenting a session to the Ontario Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Community of Practice. I think that it went pretty well (I posted my slides earlier if you want them). There were about 15 people in the room but apparently up to 100 others logged on remotely. If you were one of them – please say hi.

There were a number of questions that were asked during the session that I didn’t have time to get to – so I thought that I’d put them up on the blog for anyone who is interested.


Will pdf of the slides be available?

Yep – I’ve put them up at I write about social media a lot and you might also be interested in picking through some of my other blog posts on the same subject at

Probably more useful you might want to have a look at Social Media: A Guide for Researchers and the resources that are connected to it.

Have you used a wiki or a google doc to write shared documents?

Yes. I’ve used Google docs as a tool for collaboration at a number of levels. This has ranged from using it to agree the agenda for a meeting between a group of people up to and including using it to collaborate around the authoring of an article of research proposal. What I haven’t really ever got into is the authoring of documents in the open ie. allowing everyone to see what you are writing as you are writing it. But there are those who do this and would argue that it is the logical extension of open and collaborative research processes.

I have found that online classroom chat rooms are not effective to stimulate ‘conversation’….comment?

In this presentation I wasn’t really talking about online pedagogy. I know where you are coming from, but I think that it is possible to design online learning in ways that do engage people and lead to participation. However, there is lots of research and thinking in this area as well. My CiteULike bibliography on e-learning probably offers a few starting points. I’d particularly point to the work of Gilly Salmon as someone who has given a lot of thought to how you engage people in participating in online learning.

Any particularly helpful, innovative measures for sm use?

I’m not really sure what you are looking for here. What I would say is that most social media gives you access to much more precise metrics than any other kind of activity. If you want to know how many people read a post, subscribe to a blog, follow you on Twitter etc, all of that information is there. It doesn’t necessary measure how much people take in or use what you say, but you can look at your reach/audience size.

How likely/feasible would using social media be for the actual research process in light of pressures to publish novel data? How do we ”change” the thinking to get people onboard to knowledge exchange?

This is a key concern. I don’t think that there is any perfect answer to this one. What I am sure is that we can’t wait until the metrics change – we just need to find ways around it. I tend not to publish datasets until I have published from them – but I will do this sometimes (see for an example). I usually published thoughts and drafts but then take the thinking offline before it really starts to look like an academic article. Others deal with this differently and are more bold about their openness. The answer is likely to depend on your attitude, your discipline, your status and power etc.

I should also be clear that I’m not saying that blind peer review has no place. You might be interested to read a post that I wrote on quality assurance in academic work.

Thanks to everyone who came to the session. I’m happy to answer more questions if people post them as comments on the blog. Also thanks to Antonia and Sarah for all the help in running the session today.

One comment

  1. Thank you for the response to my question (last one).I will agree – I don’t think we can wait for the metrics to change, but at the same time I feel that we need to do something to change the metrics (or start the change) as well. There are several examples of open research (like this one: and there is even a website dedicated to it ( I don’t know if you have come across these kinds of things, but slowly "retraining" the next generation of scientists to accept and acknowledge social media and its inherent openness in research might be a start. I am speaking very idealistically and optimistically, of course. But, I have a strong passion for this that I cannot let go.

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