Today, I’ll briefly explore what social networking in an academic context is all about, and how it can help you. We’re all probably familiar with social networking in the context of our social lives, but how do we harness the power of social networking to help us as professional researchers? And how or where do we start?
I’ll try and answer those questions: firstly, developing a social network of fellow researchers working in your field can help to keep you informed of developments, conferences, research grant opportunities, etc. The ‘How?’ question is probably the one that preoccupies most of us!
Well, you have to start somewhere, and as great philosophers tell us, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” -so- let’s put one foot forwards, and just keep walking….. A good place to start is academia.edu, a social networking site for academics.
Start SMALL! Don’t be ovewhelmed with over-ambition…start naturally…. Who do you already know? “Friend” them. Start putting “Likes” and comments on their posts, again following your natural interests – don’t force it! Over the following weeks and months, look at who else responds to the posts you’ve commented on/liked. Do you think what they say is interesting? Does anyone look like they are involved in work related to yours? – OK, “friend” them too.
Consider also micro-blogging. For example, the University of Birmingham has its own microblog. Take the same approach as with academia.edu, but on a smaller, more immediate scale. Typically, microblog posts are limited to fewer than 200 text characters, and can be made from mobile phones. So, whenever you have a question, insight, whatever, get typing!
Gradually, you’ll build up a very useful, supportive network of fellow researchers who share if not all, probably many, professional interests with you. -Just be careful- keep posts and comments professional, positive and friendly. Consider also questions of confidentiality – don’t post sensitive information or information covered by confidentiality or data protection agreements. And don’t forget copyright rules, which may apply to your own papers in certain journals; for example some journals stipulate a six-month embago on non-subscription access to the latest papers. My Library Services colleague Alex Fenlon is the expert in these matters, by the way, see Library Service’s webpage on copyright issues.
I run a module as part of Library Service’s “Raising Your Research Profile” suite of workshops for research support, so if you’d like further info, come along to one of those.
And whatever you do, don’t forget to have fun, and to reap the long term benefits of having a network. At its best (and by no means rarely) you can give and receive genuinely helpful advice, support and friendship.