Academics Stuck in an Ivory Tower re-Social Media

It has always been a source of surprise to me that so few of my academic colleagues actively use social media to disseminate their research findings or to support the student learning experience. It seems that this is a general trend in the sector.

New research from Michigan State University shows that scholars are largely resisting the use of social media to circulate their scientific findings or to engage with their tech-savvy students. In a survey of 1,600 researchers, only 15% used Twitter for professional purposes. For YouTube and Facebook, this increased to 28% and 39% respectively, but still very much the minority. Even those who are actively involved, most use social media to find collaborators and disseminate their work rather than to support their teaching activities.

This leads Christine Greenhow (Assistant Professor in MSU’s College of Education), one of the co-authors of the paper, to conclude that social media has failed to take hold in academia’s Ivory Towers.

“Academia is not serving as a model of social media use or preparing future faculty to do this……..This is troubling given that universities in the United States and Europe are trying to increase access to publicly funded research…….Only a minority of university researchers are using free and widely available social media to get their results and published insights out and into the hands of the public, even though the mission of public universities is to create knowledge that makes a difference in people’s lives. Simply put, there’s not much tweeting from Ivory Towers…….This issue is at the heart of larger discussions regarding accessibility, equal rights to higher education, transparency and accountability.”

So what about it colleagues? Are you going to open up and let the rest of us know about your latest research? Share with us your subject specific expertise? Or is it still all about getting x number of publications in refereed academic journals read only by other members of the Tower?

The above is a summary of an article that appeared recently on the MSU Today web site.

The full paper, ‘Social Scholarship: Reconsidering Scholarly Practices in the Age of Social Media,’ is available online in the British Journal of Educational Technology.

As always, comment and feedback on this article are very much welcome.  Is it time for change in the corridors of academia?

Take care.

Jim H


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