Digital Researcher for RTSD #druwe Nov 2015

On Tuesday the 17th November, I ran a workshop at UWE on the use of social media in the context of research. This was aimed at PGRs who are engaging in the Research Training and Support Day (RTSD) at the Glenside campus. I’ve run this sort of thing before; a similar workshop that we ran in February 2015 for researchers and a workshop last December for researcher skills developers from across the country.

The presentation was prepared using Prezi, and is linked behind the cover slide below.

digital researcher RTSD

After a brief introduction, I gathered views about what fears folks have about using social media. Broadly they fall into three categories:- Digital Identity, Information overload and Intellectual Property/data management concerns, all of which are explored below.

Digital Identity

We spent some time discussing online identity, how to balance the “personal me” vs the “professional me”, how different tools lend themselves to different purposes and how actively managing information about yourself is a good thing to do.

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it”.Erik Qualman

I offered the main reason for using social media tools is to broaden and enhance your network which is beneficial for researchers looking to establish themselves. I also argued that this is a change in the contemporary research environment compared to just a few years ago – there is more competition and so it is in the individual’s interest to augment their profiles.

Power of networks

We discussed a little bit of network theory, illustrated by this video for a TEDx talk by Zella King

Managing information overload

We had a look at portals and aggregators to help manage information streams. I talked very briefly about a couple of examples:- Tweetdeck is useful for managing multiple streams of information.

Using social media tools in research

Using digital tools in academia should also be considered against the backdrop of the era of increasingly open research – being able to promote the research you are working on as well as the associated outputs is extremely important to building researcher reputations.

As ever, PHD comics have a good overview of this changing environment.

We discussed how research is social & iterative, the benefits of engaging with folks far and wide about your research outputs and how to use tools to make the finding out about knowledge a little easier. We had a play around with some social citation tools, e.g. CiteULike, Zotero & Mendeley


We discussed why folks blog – a variety of reasons including:- organising thoughts, mind dump, getting feedback at an early stage etc.

This blog is a just one such example!


Summed up with “Common sense!”

Other sources of information

Here’s a list of things that I have come across recently on the topic of social media in research (clearly not exhaustive!)

Companion website to the book Studying and Researching with Social Media – Megan Poore

A blog about blogging in an academic research context from Imperial College – some really interesting advice and guidance here.

The Networked Researcher blog site which promotes the use of social media tools for researchers – “Digital Professionalism – what not to share”

The British Library – Help for Researchers – “Web 2.0 as a social science research tool”

The Guardian Higher Education site – discussing benefits of blogging as a researcher – “How blogging helped me find my research voice”

The Research Information Network site – “Social Media: A Guide for Researchers”


Social Media for Researcher Developers: What’s in it for me? #vitaewiifm14

Social media on electronic displayThis week I delivered a session on behalf of the Vitae London Hub aimed at staff supporting researchers (colloqially researcher developers) on the topic of using social media. I have talked about this topic before, at the national Vitae conference and at a South West and Wales regional good practice event.

Both of those events have been face to face workshops but this session was delivered as a webinar which means I have had to think quite hard about how to keep the content and discussion moving in this format. This was the first time I had used a webinar application in this way so was new for me. There was a minor glitch at the beginning but I think we managed to circumvent the problem and deliver the material pretty much as intended!

Here is the link to the information about the webinar:-

Webinar: Social Media What is in it for me?

The slides I used to support this session are included below.

I started out by providing a bit of context around social media use and wanted to emphasise that although there are a myriad of different tools out there, the process is still about people sharing things with others. I also posited that we have little choice about engaging with social media which I summed up with a quote from Erik Qualman

“We don’t have a choice whether we do social media, only how well we do it”

In setting the context around social media use in academia, I talked a little about the Vitae project on Digital Literacy that was undertaken as part of the larger Jisc Developing Digital Literacies Programme. This survey was undertaken to establish a baseline of understanding about how researchers and that staff who support them are using social media tools in their social and professional lives.

We then moved onto what concerns or fears people have when it comes to engaging with social media tools – here’s a selection of comments.

  • It comes down to a personal cost-benefit analysis (of my time and overall reach)…and the little I have delved into social media, hasn’t really produced enough interaction to make the time it takes to spread the message online worthwhile
  • Using team twitter accounts – how do you make sure it is the right message when several people are using it?
  • Finding time to do it during the day
  • Finding the target audience
  • I think it’s best to keep personal (e.g. Twitter) separate from professional. what do others think?

Whenever I ask this question, the answers can usually be put into three categories

  1. Information overload – the fear that engaging in social media would be too much information to keep track of
  2. Digital Identity – concern over what to share about oneself, privacy issues and the blurring of private versus professional
  3. Data/intellectual property concerns – what happens if I share something that someone else exploits/stealing of ideas

Managing information overload

We had a look at portals and aggregators to help manage information streams. For example I use Tweetdeck to manage 3 twitter accounts -This makes it easier to separate out different elements of twitter, to send scheduled tweets, to monitor hashtags etc. For me, it also provides a much easier way to track news items or professional activities of interest in one place which is a time saving rather than investment.

In response to the question raised about several contributors to a single twitter account, Anna Price from the Vitae London Hub offered up this advice from Tseen Khoo

Digital Identity

We spent some time discussing online identity, how to balance the “personal me” vs the “professional me”, how different tools lend themselves to different purposes and how actively managing information about yourself is a good thing to do.


I wanted to focus a little bit of time on the use of blogs by researcher developers. We, collectively, are in the business of training and development and, in my experience at least, there are few of us who don’t re-purpose, borrow, adapt materials from other sources. There is no point reinventing the wheel as the saying goes. Networks like Vitae give us the opportunity to share practice although most of this is face to face.

I covered a couple of themes with this; partly about dealing with the finding the time question; when I write a blog post I write primarily for me – it is a way of reflecting on the workshops that I deliver, thinking about how they went, thinking about how they can be adapted in the future. This has a secondary function – it provides context and resources for the participants. So I do this instead of writing handouts as supplementary material.

A further outcome is that it is not just participants of my workshops who can read and access the materials – other researcher developers can and do. This helps continue the sharing of practice beyond the infrequent face to face networking meetings.

And speaking of networking, part of the reason why I engage with twitter is that (by and large) the people I follow are chosen because they share things that are interesting and useful. There is a theory about all this works but we didn’t have time to get into it in an hour long session but here is a short video from Dr. Zella King that summarises that.


I talked a little about this and I try to live by a simple rule when posting on twitter; “If I wouldn’t say it to your face, I won’t post it online”. This is especially good to remember if you’ve had a drink (or three) and engaging on twitter.

Further Resources

Digital Professionalism – what not to share

Social Media – A Guide for Researchers

Vitae/Open University Handbook of Social Media

Vitae Digital Literacies survey report (2012)

The Thesis Whisperer blog

Patter – Prof. Pat Thomson’s blog

Social Media for Research Administrators

Today I am running a short session with UWE colleagues who support researchers who are applying for research funding. There are three main reasons why I think this should be explored:-

  1. Social media tools can really help with horizon scanning – keeping up to date with what funding calls are out there etc.
  2. The ability to keep up with a professional network outside of conferences/meetings
  3. To understand why researchers are increasingly using social media in the course of the work to better support their needs

We will be hanging around under the hashtag #druwe.

I’ve edited down a prezi that I have previously used with researchers themselves to provide the framework for today. The main points to cover are:-

  1. Social media is radically changing the way we think about publishing information/sharing knowledge in perhaps the same way as the printing press revolutionised information distribution in the past
  2. Lots of folks have concerns about putting things online w.r.t. a digital identity. Thinking about what other people can see about you is important, even to the point of being in control of your professional self online
  3. Twitter is an obvious tool for many in terms of maintaining contact with a professional network, need to have an understanding of how to make it work for you
  4. Linked to that is the idea of using filters to prevent being swamped with information – we will talk about portals and aggregators to help manage information streams
  5. I will focus on why researchers are increasingly using social media tools to help them in their research activities, important to know for those who support researchers in their endeavours
  6. Blogging. This for me is an interesting way of sharing knowledge within a network, keeping yourself engaged with the topics you’re interested in (professionally) and providing a much needed space to reflect on your work.
  7. Some advice on an etiquette for the internet? How to avoid some pitfalls.

Here’s the prezi I’m going to use.

Links to blog sites on research funding support

There are some other examples out there of research support staff who run either single author or multi author blogsites around the funding of research.

The Research Whisperer – A blog written by research support staff at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia. Full of great advice which is just as relevant in the UK

Cash For Questions: Social Science research funding, policy and development – A blog written by Adam Golberg; a research manager from Nottingham University Business School. Lots of advice as well as commentary on the wider contextual debates in UK HE

Research Fundermentals – A blog by Phil Ward, a research funding manager at the University of Kent. Well written commentary on topics relating to research funding professionals as well as the wider debates.

Bournemouth University Research Blog – A comprehensive repository of advice, links, information relating to research activity at Bournemouth University. One could say that this a complete solution to the conundrum of how do you have a joined up apporach to research support in a website.

Northumbria Research Support – Another comprehensive blog covering all aspects of research support at Northumbria University.

The Digital Researcher Evaluation – blog style

On Tuesday 14th June, we ran a course at UWE entitled “Becoming a digital researcher” (#druwe) which was facilitated by Dr Tristram Hooley from the University of Derby with a little help from me. Throughout the day we covered:-

  • Personal Learning Environment – How and where do we get our information from
  • Social Media Tools – The technical bit of using tools is less important that the wider principle of exploiting networks to enhance your personal learning environment
  • Networks – It really is all about your networks, the strength of them. It is that that pays dividends when using social media in your research area

I am reposting the slides that Tristram used on the day below: 


Download this file

What Tristram and I would like is for participants of the day is to give us some feedback on how it went, the content, the delivery with a view to understanding what it is that we can do to make it better. Neither of us are “gurus” of social media but we both have experience of being researchers and using some of the tools available. Did we get it right?

I noticed that Ann Grand has written a reflective blog entry about the day and I would encourage you to either do something similar (it will give an excuse to write another blog entry!) or use the comments section below this post to add your thoughts. 

Thanks for taking the time to attend.