Read on for advice on using social media tools for research, from an interview with Prof. Adrian David Cheok, a Full Professor at Keio University, Graduate School of Media Design.
The role of social media tools in academic research
We live in a hyperconnected society and can access limitless information in real time and that’s fundamentally changing the way we do research. Before we would wait until a journal paper was published or for an annual conference before we would see each other’s work. Now you can keep abreast of the latest research through social networks.
The hyperconnectivity of social networks also offers a new way of building up your academic network. In academia, just like in any other profession, it’s very important to build up your network, to have sponsors or mentors in your career, especially when you’re young. Now you can do this virtually: You don’t have to be in the same university or attend the same conference as these sponsors or mentors. Of course, some physical interaction is important. But you can build a very strong academic network using these new social networks and new connectivity.
Profiles and interactions on social media vs. traditional CV
You may still need to send your CV but that’s just the starting point. People like to check your publication profile on different digital libraries and on Google Scholar and other social profiles. People are going to see what you say on your blog and your Facebook profile. So it’s very important that you take control of this as a young researcher, and always keep an eye on that and make sure you are optimizing your research, that you appear well on these profiles and social networks.
Social media tools for research work
All the profiles have slightly different characteristics. It is important to build up your LinkedIn profile because potential employers look at this. Twitter is a way of engaging with fellow researchers and the general public in real time. Facebook is kind of a connector – you can use it to connect to other academics, and be aware of upcoming conferences. And this is a core network that you use to supplement the others.
Young researchers are advised to have a profile on all of these networks and to choose one as the main projection of their research. You should still publish in top journal papers. And you should still try to get into conferences. But in between the papers and the conferences, you should post about your research findings and your ideas. A lot of the big difficult problems that we’re facing in research really need collaboration, and often you can get real-time feedback on your research by using social networks.
The do’s and don’ts when using social media networks
Stay focused. Normally people like to read your blog, or follow your Twitter or Facebook when you stay focused on a particular topic. You become well known in a particular field. No matter at what stage you are in your PhD, you can build up your expertise and people will want to hear what you have to say about your field.
Whenever you send a Twitter message or post something, ask yourself “Will this be read by other people?” Unless someone knows you well, they’re not interested in personal things that go on in your life, so I suggest staying focused on professional things. It’s okay sometimes to post funny things and bits of humor to engage with people. But mainly stay focused on a certain topic – your research – and get well known for that.
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