A review of ‘Twitter for Research’

This is a round-up of the content, reaction and response to the Twitter for Research session I gave here in Cambridge last week. The session was attended by a relatively small audience of 30 (academics, researchers, students, support staff and librarians), but was followed by a much larger number of people on twitter via the hashtag #twit4res as live-tweeted by @KTLib, @meg_librarian, @lettylib, all of whom are well worth following.

My Prezi
I decided to prepare a prezi for the session which would not only be engaging for the local audience but would also contain enough content and information to make it valuable to non-attendees. Happily, judging by the fact it has now been viewed 2780 times (!) and the number of RTs and follows I received over this weekend I think I pulled that off.

My Message
The main messages I wanted the prezi to get over were that:

  • twitter is a viable and valuable platform for academics and researchers;
  • media stereotypes should be ignored, you can cut out all the noise and rubbish;
  • twitter can make you more engaged and offers opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise come your way;
  • heaps of academics, researchers and serious organisations are already on twitter;
  • risks of use are exaggerated and twitter is not hugely difference to sharing at a conference;
  • professional and personal lives are blending more and twitter is part of a movement championing a more social model of scholarly research.

Twitter Temperature
I started the session by taking the audience’s twitter temperature via a post-it notes exercise that got people out of their chairs (I always like to get people moving about) and found we had an almost exact split of non-users (12) and users (11), with just one person in the middle considering the possibility. 6 people didn’t take part (because they were too busy tweeting, were too miserable, or had no leg-bones). N.B. For those adding up, by the time I took the photo some of the post-its had fallen off the board.

As well as selecting a coloured post-it relating to their use or non-use, the audience were also asked to give reasons why. Of those who weren’t using twitter the main reason cited was that they didn’t have time to tweet. Other reasons given were: ‘Will the things I say really interest anyone?’; ‘Twitter is officially banned in my country’; ‘Couldn’t be bothered to figure it out’; and ‘I perceive there is too little space for information to be disseminated well’. Naturally I addressed all of these points in the session and on the subject of time, simply related that you make time in your working life for those activities you consider to be valuable and for me twitter definitely falls into that category.

Of those already using twitter, most cited: professional development; networking; profile-raising; sourcing relevant blogposts and articles; and keeping up with breaking news.

HootSuite Demo
I elected to demo HootSuite in the session as it’s my Twitter platform of choice, not so much for its much-publicised social media dashboard functionality, but simply because it allows you to view columns listing your mentions, DMs, RTs and saved searches and lists. I also showed a list of business school academics that I put together (I would share it here but I can only view it through HootSuite at the minute – another job for the list) as well as some example hashtag and non-hashtag searches for relevant tweets (leading to blogposts and articles) on energy data.

Simon Ruffle – Centre for Risk Studies
For those of you not at the session wondering what ‘A word from Simon’ related to in the prezi – this was a few minutes talk from an academic called Simon Ruffle from the Centre for Risk Studies. They have been looking at tweets relating to earthquakes and mining the raw twitterfeed direct from twitter.com to plot official earthquake tweets against those reported by regular tweeters. It made for a very interesting aside. Many thanks for your input Simon.

In Conclusion
By session end, several attendees either told me in person or on the feedback forms that they were converted to twitter and would give it a try. Only one wrote that they remained unconvinced. However, the conversions have not been limited to the session alone – I’ve since received email requests from academics and students who couldn’t attend, who have seen the prezi, taking up our offer both to get started on twitter and, if they already have an account, to help them make better use of it.

What would I do differently next time? Ask a few less general questions as there wasn’t quite enough discussion and debate for my liking and, secondly, bill it as an hour rather than 45 minutes – who was I kidding? Also, it would have also have been great if more academics and researchers had responded to my request to co-present/contribute to the session. Maybe next time?

Acknowledgements
- Before I close I must just credit those academics/researchers whose excellent work/efforts I drew on in the session: George VeletsianosMark Carrigan; Dorothy Bishop; Skip Via. Thank you all and, again, get following them.

- Thanks also to all those lovely people I follow on twitter whose tweets I incorporated into the prezi. I’m afraid time constraints dictated that I didn’t get the chance to clear this with you all.

- And finally thanks to Kirsty Taylor for collating this tremendously useful collection of twitter for academic articles and blogposts on our posterous blog.

Andy @PriestLib

Social media for researchers

Given the distance of time since my last post I was tempted to make this one about ‘not spreading yourself too thin’, another time maybe (when I’m not spreading myself too thin). Instead this post focuses on a social media workshop for PhDs that I presented together with @angefitzpatrick and @meg_librarian yesterday. Here is the prezi we used.

We are lucky to have an active PhD body here who absolutely ‘get’ that we offer more than traditional library services and this was our 2nd session with them on social media. This time around we planned to put more meat on the bones and decided to separately prepare information on social media tools and activities that might prove viable to researchers, divided up into three main areas: gather, store, and share. For a variety of reasons, we only path-ed the prezi we used just before the session, having independently added in the materials for our sections. This explains why overall the prezi looks very unbalanced (see below), not to say unplanned, however, despite its messy appearance it ended up flowing very well and the session felt coherent.

BLA Liverpool 2010 – Day 2 (Part 1)

Day Two of BLA 2010 began with a presentation from Stephane Goldstein of the Research Information Network (RIN). Stephane intended to explore to what extent researchers are equipped to handle information and data? As part of this approach he re-examined the findings of the 2008 Mind the Skills Gap report and the implications it had for librarians and their support of researchers. Other key points included:
- The absence of training co-ordination for researchers at institutional level
- Research supervisors acting as an important link between the library and researchers
- RIN is keen to engage with all those who have an interest in promoting research information skills

Stephane finished his presentation by discussing the forthcoming publication of a Research Development Framework (RDF) publication later this month – which will appear on the Vitae website.

The first members sharing session of the day was delivered by Mark Greenwood of Manchester Business School who showcased their impressive Manchester business answers 24/7 which allows students to search for assistance on frequently asked questions and receive guidance on what resources and services to go to and how to use them. The product really fired the enthusiasm of those present and led me to discuss with @ekcragg (pictured tweeting away – right) about the possibility of heading up a BLA-wide project along the very same lines for all member institutions, so that every librarian present wouldn’t end up going back to base to reinvent the same wheel independently. We shall see how we get on, but we have the beginnings of a project team and a tentatively named ‘BLA Knowledge Base’. 

The final sharing session was presented by Avtar Natt of BPP business school who asked if we really needed all the subscription resources we have and during the session challenged himself to find answers to queries from students on the open web. Although I remain unconvinced that free resources can come anywhere close to meeting our needs it was surprising to note how much he did retrieve. I have made a particular note to search the investor relations pages of company websites.


Mary Betts-Gray (above) of Cranfield School of Management, who is always worth listening to, presented the next session, entitled ‘From Crisis to CRIS: supporting the research assessment agenda’. Mary discussed the slow growth of the Cranfield repository, known as CERES, due to lack of support by researchers: “we built it but they didn’t come”. This was partly because researchers couldn’t see the point of adding to their own workload, but also due to their concern that submission might unduly affect their chances of publication in academic journals. Mary recounted how the repository has been rebranded as a ‘research tool’ and that CRIS - Cranfield Research Information System (which will enable inter-operation between internal information systems) is being used to ensure researchers are engaged with the repository in terms of their workflow. 

After this briefing, delegates were divided into different groups to discuss issues relating to open access and repositories. Some of the most interesting observations arising from this discussion were as follows: researchers work in shockingly random ways; research management needs champions from within University executives – Vice Chancellors in particular need to be on side; technologically we’re ready for this shift in activity and approach, but culturally we’re not; we as librarians need to build relationships with researchers based on openness and trust – and we need to get out of our libraries and go and talk to them in order to ensure their engagement; repository content is still a logistical nightmare; we need to make repositories Google Scholar compatible to make hits soar; don’t go to academics with specific questions about repositories and open access as they won’t want to answer them – demonstrate leadership as the librarian; and if a repository is used it shows value of research which can justify funding for the library or for new research.

[End of Part 1]