Will Twitter, blogs and wikis change scholarly communication?

At the Conference on Science and the Internet (#cosci12) academics from different disciplines discussed changing practices in research and higher education.

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'Enormous potential'

The actual user numbers seem a bit disillusioning: social media like blogs or wikis are still only used by relatively few academics (particularly in Germany and some other European countries). Yet they offer enormous potential for those that give them a try. The Conference on Science and the Internet (#cosci12, http://www.nfgwin.uni-duesseldorf.de/de/cosci12) had a closer look at these developments from different perspectives:

  • novel online platforms as infrastructure for research collaboration, new ways for publishing and sharing information
  • new learning environments based on social media and mobile technologies
  • big data from social media as a subject of research

e-research: supportive tools for researchers

Research practices are constantly enhanced by digital tools and data which allow for new forms of collaborative knowledge production, including physical networks of tools and expandable clouds that enhance capacities of research instruments. This development is referred to as e-research. Different research practices in science, humanities and social sciences have lead to discipline-specific and rather narrow applications - but there now also is an ongoing diffusion across domains. One trend is collaborative knowledge production by crowdsourcing, as in Galaxyzoo (where users can help scientists in classifying galaxies by there shape) or SPLASH (where you can report humpback whale sightings). In humanities there are approaches to jointly analyse large text corpora, e.g. the work of Thomas Pynchon in PynchonWiki.

See and be seen on the Web

Tools like this allow the creation of research data in novel ways and may also help to make research projects more visible for the general public. Furthermore, the more academics engage in social media like blogs and Twitter the more they become visible to new audiences. Researchblogging.org explicitly aggregates blog posts about peer reviewed articles. Studies with scholarly bloggers show that blogging can raise awareness to scientific publications and ongoing research. Another study reveals how scholars in some disciplines tend to cite their own publications in blog posts more frequently than those in other disciplines (and indicates that men do so more frequently than women). And finally we see that scholars often start blogging simply because they enjoy writing. Studies on microblogging show that scholars heavily use Twitter to share interesting URLs - which not necessarily link to scientific websites. 

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