Supporting Researcher Engagement with Social Tools by Alan Cann

In this seminar, Alan Cann of the University of Leicester considers the potential of social tools for researchers, based on both his own extensive experience and those of researchers interviewed as part of a study for the publication "Social Media: a guide for researchers."

Sometimes dismissed as trivial or irrelevant, Alan argues that social tools actually offer researchers an opportunity to improve the quality of their work through an enhanced ability to find, use and disseminate information. He considers how personal networks can help create, curate, filter and amplify relevant information as part of the research process.

He goes on to explore issues of privacy, barriers to contribution and personal and professional identity. He also recognises that there is no right way to do social media and that everyone has a different 'galaxy' of tools that they use in different ways for a different experience. As a result, finding the value in social tools can take time and commitment without necessarily providing an obvious immediate payback. The key is to recognise this and lead people towards their own lightbulb moment.

Key points covered:

  • A galaxy of social tools for researchers
  • Resisting techno-determinism
  • Visitors and residents revisited for researchers
  • Information overload, filter failure and filter bubbles
  • Personal networks - filter, create, curate & amplify

There was also a lively text chat during the session:

01:35 - AJ Cann 
2010: If you build it, will they come? How researchers perceive and use web 2.0 

01:56 - Sue Beckingham 1 
This guide has been so useful! 

01:57 - Steve Boneham 
If you're using twitter to talk about this - we also have a suggested hashtag #nstalks 

02:53 - AJ Cann 
2011: Social media: A guide for researchers. 

05:33 - Dave White 
Galaxy is a good term 

08:09 - Steve Boneham 
I like the idea of social media being like an open kitchen 

08:42 - Dave White 
Yes, with a flow of people moving through it. 

09:13 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
Are you the same Dave White? 

09:31 - Steve Boneham 
Visitors & residents model explained by Dave White: 

09:35 - AJ Cann 
Visitors & Residents: 

09:49 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
Yes the same Dave! 

10:25 - Dave White 
That was a slightly better explanation of my idea than I usually give... 

10:53 - Steve Boneham 
Good post on what if (services like) twitter goes rogue: 

15:39 - Steve Boneham 
Pressure to keep feeding the machine together with the reward a response brings is not insignificant on that work/life balance things 

16:46 - Dave White 
Sometimes by being resident I feel my 'hourly rate' drops. Sort of working all the time... ? 

16:53 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
There is a difference between lurking and engaging. 

16:53 - AJ Cann 
@JS We ckntrol the slides ;-) Which one would you like? 

18:16 - Marieke Guy (UKOLN) 1 
Do you think that some tools (like Twitter) can seem a little clique and it can be quite scary for people to fully participate 

18:17 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
Lurking is OK - so it takes the pressure off 

18:21 - Steve Boneham 
I don't mind the banal. Gives a rounder perspective on other people's lives, ideas, motivations 

18:44 - Steve Boneham 
Like having a chat at a conference over coffee vs the keynote 

18:53 - Dave White 
All the best tool allow lurking 

18:54 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
So it is good for adoption 

19:01 - Sue Beckingham 1 
I found initially it was helpful to pose questions 

19:14 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
Agree Sue 

19:15 - Emma Cragg (University of Warwick) 
@Steve Boneham - I'd agree about the banality, you want to see people are human and have personality 

19:21 - Steve Boneham 
Hopefully by yomorrow 

19:25 - Steve Boneham 

19:35 - Sue Beckingham 1 
In time you find you can answer others 

21:16 - Steve Boneham 
The network you build and engage with means social tools are different for everyone. Challenging for 'training' beyond what buttons to press 

23:34 - Steve Boneham 
And as a result of your hard work in that, people like me can become part of that network 

24:00 - Steve Boneham 
(....and hopefully vice versa) 

24:27 - Paul Jinks 
tallblog video link is giving a database connection error - is there an alternative? 

24:39 - Steve Boneham 
It's on - give me a sec 

25:36 - Sue Beckingham 1 
Following a conference twitter# I collab with another to plan a future proposal (we have never met f2f) and its now been accepted 

25:38 - SI (Newcastle University) 
I'm the only person who is responsible for the website, I'm worried if I start it will take over my life! 

25:39 - Steve Boneham 
Visitors & residents video on 

26:03 - Steve Boneham 
Sorry - think we killed his site :-) 

26:06 - Paul Jinks 
Thanks Steve =) 

26:22 - Dave White 
The whole server is down :) 

26:37 - Steve Boneham 

27:45 - Marieke Guy (UKOLN) 1 
She need a good social media policy! 

27:48 - Emma Thompson 
may need 2 accounts - 1 for professional one for personal? 

28:02 - Linda Saddington Hull University 
SI, I think this is something that a few of us are afraid of 

29:16 - Steve Boneham 
Yep. Need to set scope and manage expectations. 

29:37 - dot.rural 
in our experiences you tend to get peak times of activity on social media anyway, usually when people are in the office 

29:38 - Steve Boneham 
Also, in a social space, students take on some roles 

29:47 - Steve Boneham 
(As Alan is just saying... I think) 

29:51 - Dickon Copsey 
On a practical level Hoot suite is a great tool to manage multiple facebook and twitter accounts ie. one post can go to all/selection 

29:57 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
The beauty of a lot of this stuff that it is mostly asynchronous 

30:15 - Linda Saddington Hull University 
There is also the possibility that you are browsing the web in the evening and a colleague using Skype notices that you are online and the next thing you know you are involved in work conversations at 9pm 

30:27 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
In other words a response some hours later or following morning works fine 

30:33 - Jez Cope 
It's worth remembering that unlike email, there's much less expectation that you will read every single message on e.g. Twitter. 

30:49 - Dave White 
t's quite easy to make yourself 'invisible' even when online 

31:00 - RIchard Stamp (BSU) 
Thoroughly recommend Tweetdeck for managing multi-accounts. You can even use it within Chrome - very clean and easy to use. 

31:22 - Will Allen 
Question raises wider issues re. changing working practices, roles and responsibilities... 

32:06 - Will Allen 
JISC's done some good work in this area recently... The "Work With IT" project ... will find the link 

32:06 - Sue Beckingham 1 
You wouldn't drink directly from a fire hydrant! Dip in and out of social media 

33:14 - Will Allen 

33:41 - Steve Boneham 
@Sue - Networks are good firehouse filters 

34:02 - Sue Beckingham 1 
Agree Steve! 

34:37 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
You can have two identities if you want to - esp on twitter 

34:38 - Jo Badge 
Thinking about networks and audiences is valuable for yourself as well as others - I use twitter for colleagues, friends on facebook like Alan. Different tools helps to keep boundaries between different areas of your life. 

35:27 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
I have had work colleague on fb with a "Rasputin" identity 

36:14 - Alasdair Mort 
I've found that connecting with colleagues in a social sense on twitter/facebook has actually improved our working relationships. We don't talk about work using Facebook; Twitter, however, seems to be more suited to research. 

36:17 - Paul Jinks 
"facebooks for education" have been labelled "creepy treehouses" due to lack of allure to kids 

36:17 - mhawksey 
LinkedIn Groups are one to watch 

36:17 - timjohnson is nice for academics 

36:58 - Dave White 
Tall blog back-up now 

37:21 - Jez Cope 
Subject-specific networks tend to lack the critical mass needed for good community building. 

37:47 - dot.rural 
Sorry, can you define what FriendFeed is? 

38:13 - Sue Beckingham 1 
Yammer is proving useful for small group discussions at work 

38:17 - Jez Cope 
Also, if I have several subject specific networks, there's an extra step of having to decide which network to use at any given point. 

38:53 - dot.rural 
Ok thanks :) 

39:12 - Jo Badge 
have a look at Alan's account on friendFeed - this is his personal science account, not the one used to talk to students 

39:35 - AJ Cann 

39:50 - Jo Badge 
@sue yammer is useful if you get a critical mass of people on there, like any other network 

41:00 - mhawksey 
@jo @sue Jane Hart has a number of case studies about businesses effectively using yammer (mass is key) 

41:51 - Jo Badge 
@martin - thanks - know it is well used at Hudersfield, see #yam tags on twitter all the time! pushes tweets into yammer 

41:56 - Sue Beckingham 1 
We actually use for project discussion so is small group (private) and is working well - avoids mass email! 

42:04 - AJ Cann 
Filter Bubbles? 

43:27 - Paul Jinks 
interesting discussion with Eli Pariser about Filter Bubbles, Google, facebook and twitter as sources of info on Click: 

44:50 - Steve Boneham 
Filter bubble overview also available as a podcast from an event at LSE... 

45:23 - mhawksey 
Last weeks #nstalks twitter network diagram 

48:13 - Jez Cope 
How do you manage to focus on the networks rather than the tools and still give people the support they need with particular tools? 

48:17 - Elaine Garcia (Plymouth College of Art) 3 
could you just put the books names back up 

48:25 - sarahbrasher 1 
If training researchers to use social media does not work, then what does? 

48:29 - Alison 
Are there any concerns about investing so much "intellectual capital" in what is a commercial tool (facebook) that can disappear/sell your details etc? I agree that you need a critical mass of people  but I'm wary of completely relying on something like facebook... 

48:34 - Dave White 
wrt/ the blurring of boundaries between public and private you might be interested in my 'The Social Threshold' post 

48:40 - Elaine Garcia (Plymouth College of Art) 3 
Thanks :) 

48:52 - Sue Beckingham 1 
Thank you, again another great talk! 

48:56 - RIchard Stamp (BSU) 
Some really useful links and helpful ideas - thanks Alan. 

49:05 - Steve Boneham 
I'll be doing it tonight - that work/life balance stuff again :-) 

49:12 - Carol Gray 
thanks, learned a lot! 

49:12 - Simon Kometa (Newcastle University 
Thanks Alan. 

49:18 - Lauren Roberts 
thank you! 

49:22 - Alasdair Mort 
Thanks Alan 

49:25 - Paul Jinks 

49:32 - SI (Newcastle University) 
Thanks Alan 

49:35 - Dickon Copsey 
Do you have any useful resources to suggest for students on balancing the personal and professional while building a social medial profile... 

49:39 - Tim Edwards 
Thanks Tim (PSI) 

49:40 - Nikki GS 

49:42 - Paul Monahan 
Thanks Alan 

49:48 - timjohnson 
Thanks Alan and everyone else :) 

49:54 - Rob Daley (Heriot-Watt) 
While this is all facinating, my constant challange is to identify the cost/benefit of engaging in any of these activities, including learning about them and their usefullness before plunging in! there are many places to start but whichone is the place for me? 

50:09 - Andrew Thorburn 
Thanks Alan - good talk, very useful :) 

50:26 - Louise 1 
thank you Alan and the contributors to the chat 

50:37 - Joyce Nolan (Liverpool John Moores University) 
many thanks to all involved - very helpful info 

50:44 - Dave White 
I suddenly realised everyone I would like to talk to in a pub was in Twitter. 

50:58 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
key payoff is following hashtag for a conference you can't afford to attend 

50:58 - Denise Turner 
Really helpful - thanks 

52:02 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
Then the hash tagged blog posts from attendees can often give a succint summary 

52:18 - Emma Thompson 
Absolutely - hashtags hugely important - have been training reasearchers and it is this element - finding conferences and people through hashtags that they don't know about twitter 

52:26 - Enid Pryce-Jones Birmingham City University 
Thanks for all the information - looking forward to following up on the suggestions 

52:29 - mhawksey 
@alison always worth keeping an eye on your exit strategy - if I need to get out how much can I take with me 

52:38 - Steve Boneham 
Hi Becky - hope to get to you in a sec 

52:55 - Steve Boneham 
plus others who are asking q in here 

53:17 - Dave White 

53:29 - Alison 
Thanks Alan, @mhawksey! 

53:35 - Phil 
Thank you!! 

53:40 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 
I don't believe you're an addict! 

54:17 - Steve Boneham 
@Alan - one q from Rob Daley and Becjy had her hand up - if you have time 

54:25 - Becky Kornegay 1 
Hand down for me. I am in the US and wasn't able to make the webinar. The comments are useful, though. Do I remember the recorded session will be available later? 

54:29 - Linda Saddington Hull University 
Is self-discipline the key to a balance? 

54:33 - Jill Macdonald 
That is very true - iPhones also have the same effect! 

54:37 - Will Allen 
Vitae have some good short, consumable guides... 

54:59 - Steve Boneham 
My cost:benefit of twitter would have, like Alan's, meant it was a waste of time. Now prob the most important social tool I use 

55:10 - Ann Barlow 
Thank you 

55:11 - Elaine Garcia (Plymouth College of Art) 3 
thank goodness for sky plus as I get carried away on the ipad and can then rewind the tv to see what Ive missed :) 

55:14 - AJ Cann 

55:16 - Steve Boneham 
Hard to predict in advance which networks/platforms will win 

55:25 - AJ Cann 

55:27 - Will Allen 
Also our web2practice guides aimed at new users: 

55:29 - Dickon Copsey 
Thanks very much, Alan. Very useful. Dave's post re The Social Threshold' blog also very useful 

55:36 - Sian Prosser (University of Warwick) 
Thanks very much! 

55:41 - Linda Saddington Hull University 
thank you. 

55:42 - Steve Boneham 
Cheers Alan 

55:43 - Chris Graves - Cardiff University 

55:43 - Elaine Garcia (Plymouth College of Art) 3 
thank you, very informativwe 

55:46 - Emma Thompson 
Really useful - thanks! 

55:47 - Dave White 
Thanks Alan. Great to have the Q and A fromal as well 

55:47 - Sue Beckingham 1 
Dave - and Twitter did lead to a talk in the pub! 

55:47 - Jill Macdonald 

55:48 - Emma Cragg (University of Warwick) 
Thanks Alan 

55:50 - Sally Patalong Coventry University 
Thank you! 

55:50 - Will Allen 
Great stuff Alan :-) 

55:50 - Dave White 

55:52 - Jo Cordy (QMUL) 
Thanks Alan. 

55:53 - michelle walker (northumbria university) 

55:54 - Chris Falzon 
Thanks - ver helpful 

55:57 - Matt Mobbs (Uni Of Leicester) 
Thanks Alan 

56:02 - mhawksey 

56:08 - Andy Tattersall 

56:15 - Clare Barber (Teesside University) 
Cheers - very useful. 

56:29 - Matt Mobbs (Uni Of Leicester) 
Will a link to the recorded session be posted somewhere?

Alternatively, watch the full session in Elluminate (Java required).

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About Alan Cann

Alan Cann is a Senior Lecturer in the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology at the University of Leicester. He has been employed as a consultant by numerous organizations including universities, pharmaceutical companies and scientific publishers.

He writes online at MicrobiologyBytes and Science of the Invisible and is Internet Consulting Editor for the scientific journal Annals of Botany (Oxford University Press).