Throughout my first year of graduate school, I was advised to use Social Media as an opportunity to both showcase my accomplishments, and connect and expand my professional network. Given its potential for collaboration, building connections, and exchanging information and ideas, can academics and scholars similarly utilize social media to improve scholarship? Why not?! Sure enough, several social media sites already exist solely for connecting academics and supporting scholarly endeavors! Here are a few:
Academia.edu – According to its website “Academia.edu is a platform for academics to share research papers.” The company’s mission is to accelerate the world’s research. Academia.edu is a well-known network site with over a million researchers. It was very quick and easy to create a profile, although I don’t know if I should be impressed or find it disconcerting how easily the website was able to pull information from my other social media to speedily create said profile. A major benefit of academia.edu is scholars can upload various documents including publications and a CV, join conversations in scholarly communities and select from a range of interests to follow. It is free to sign up for Academia.edu
Mendeley– According to its features page, Mendeley is “a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.” Its tagline is “Its time to change the way we do research” Mendeley lets users upload and share pdfs and encourages collaboration with a group feature in which members can share documents, follow updates, make comments and track progress within the groups they create. Users can also search for papers in Mendeley’s crowd-source database, add papers to their profile’s library and comment on their colleagues papers directly. Mendeley is not only a social media site, but an open source reference manager that is free to sign up for and download onto your computer.
ResearchGate.net– ResearchGate’s tagline is “built for scientists, by scientists, with the idea that science can do more when it’s driven by collaboration.” The main goal of research gate is to connect scientists in order to foster collaboration. With over over 1.5 million users, its community is composed of several disciplines. ResesracheGate provides an online platform for users to build an online portfolio, present their research, search a database of user publications, and lists scientific conferences. Signing up for ResearchGate is free.
Zotero-While Zotero’s primary purpose is to “be an easy use tool easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources”, it is a well-known and used website with a significant community. Zotero hosts groups that allow users to connect and collaborate with other scientists and scholars, and discover the works of others. It contains several disciplines through which a user can keep updated on and search for people to connect with. It is free to sign up and you download it to your computer.
Scholastica – Scholastica is a new start-up and its tagline is: “We just want to make academic publishing better.” Started by a group graduate students at the University of Chicago, the purpose of the site is to allows any scholar to create, manage, and publish in peer-reviewed open access journals online. Scholastica facilitates the academic publishing process through connecting students with journals in which they want to publish and connecting journals with much need peer review candidates. Scholastica is in its beta-version and because it is so new, the scholarly communities are small and the founders are in the process of negotiating with many journals and publishers. This may be an important network site to keep an eye as the site continues to grow and obviously because academic publishing is important to the career on any scholar.
Is Social Media definitely a collaborative vehicle for Current and Future Scholars?
The above websites offer functions uniquely advantageous to scholars, especially Zotero’s and Mendeley’s reference manager programs. But if social media specific to scholarship is to succeed, it needs to create opportunities and benefits that further knowledge in ways traditional methods cannot or it would take a lot longer to do. Yes, there exists several criticisms of the above sites that a Google search can easily uncover. True, the benefits of such sites to any scholar or scientists is only as large as the community on that site of his or her specific discipline. But keep this in mind, a new generation of graduate students are entering academia having built online brands, developed skills in navigating and connecting in social media like Facebook and LinkedIn, and whose norm is to socialize on the internet. Why wouldn’t this upcoming generation of scholars use such a skill-set as they are advancing in their academic careers, especially given how competitive the academic world is (i.e. Publish or Perish)? While, it is far too early to say if scholarly social media sites will become the respected norm, especially given the strong sense of tradition in scholarship, one cannot deny it will have some sort of role.