Social Networking in Academic Research

In the article, “Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-ons to Academic Research”, Tim Hitchcock argues that academic progress requires collective participation through the use of social networking.  As a Graduate Research Assistant, I believe the author may have a point that publishing research has become a way of demonstrating status associated with academic success rather than a way of improving the current body of knowledge.  A sizeable amount of published work I’ve read while conducting literature reviews seem to repeat the work and findings of previous authors without a unique contribution.

I don’t agree that openly sharing research in the cyber world is safe in all fields of research.  For example, in my studies, my research into highway safety requires analysis of data that if exposed to the public could result in lawsuits that may harm funding agencies.  Secondly, I agree and disagree with the idea of using blogging as a way of improving academic writing.  Ideally, I believe exposing students to public debate teaches them the importance of finding confidence in what they believe while also shaping their ability to compose their ideas professionally.  However, while this exposure improves their writing ability, it may consequently harm their job prospects.  What they share publicly remains permanently on the internet for the whole world to easily find and review.  Future employers may find these posts and associate them (the writing style) with the students’ level of competency.  If we want to encourage student participation in the academic community, there needs to be safe guards protecting them from potential inaccurate judgements that future employers associate from the their level of writing.


3 thoughts on “Social Networking in Academic Research”

  1. I completely agree with what you’re saying here about necessary safeguards. People always warn students about the dangers of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and, my thought is, if 140 characters can get you into big trouble on Twitter, a blog with an unlimited character count has the ability to do much worse. It is so easy to be tempted to respond to something that may have hit a nerve while you’re sitting at your computer; after all, the potential for a response is quite literally at your fingertips. We must advocate for caution, a cooling off and reflecting period, whatever you want to call it, so that our blogging does not harm our digital or professional reputation. Through connected learning, is there a way for an instructor or site moderator to help with this? Is it fair to require students to blog or post and then throw them into the lion’s den? We want to trust our students, our classmates, and ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we should be in connected learning alone.

  2. Hey,

    So in relation to job prospects and information/confidentiality in research, I have found that most things can be solved by being polite. It’s simple, it’s easy, and often debate can be created though a simple question. On the confidentiality side, if in doubt leave it out.

    I happen to agree that the publish or perish mindset has caused issues in knowing what is necessary research or a check in the box. However it creates a person’s identity and a continuum of thought. Some initial publications might reiterate a know viewpoint, but perhaps in the future that person makes an important contribution to the body of knowledge. We simply cannot know.

    We don’t know everything and why something was posted, but we make our best decision at the time. However, if we pause and turn away from opportunities because of the dangers that might be, we may not see the potential and could be immobilized by fear.

    You are your own filter. After that it is out of our control.


  3. Great points you have raised there. I thought about the same things when I read that article. Definitely not all research could be published on some blog with all its data, but we could still share a few ideas and benefit from each other’s ideas at least. Concerning the job market, I totally agree, because from now on we should be very careful about every word we choose in our posts since everyone has access to it, and that’s definitely not something relaxing.

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