Social Media – Part II – ‘Showcase’ sites

This post covers what we might call ‘Showcase’ sites – tools that are basically designed to allow you to display your work. They range from ORCID, which is designed as a ‘connecting’ site that brings together all of your work but doesn’t really promote engagement around it… to something like PubMed Commons, which actively encourages researchers to discuss and debate work that you post.

With all of these ‘showcase’ sites, the core of them is the material that you (and other academics) add.

ORCIDORCID logo

ORCID stands for Open Researcher and Contributor ID. It’s not strictly speaking a social media site, but it’s a hugely useful tool which allows you to create and manage an online academic profile by providing you with a simple, unique, digital identifier which you can add to publications, grant applications, and other academic outputs so that they all point back to you. This is the ORCID citation as it appears at the bottom of a paper I published, which I’ve linked to my ORCID page, so you can see how it works.

Example of ORCID citation

Three of the advantages of ORCID are:

  1. It’s a permanent ID, so it remains the same… no matter where you work.
  2. It is particularly useful if you are, for example, one of the thousands of people with the same name currently working in academia and need to ensure that you are uniquely identifiable. Note, the search means that you don’t even have to remember what your ORCID ID is, as you can look yourself up each time you need it!
  3. It works with most other systems, so once it’s set up, if you include your ORCID ID when you publish, or apply for a grant, then ORCID will link those outputs to your page for others to find.

ResearchGate

ResearchGate logo

Research Gate offers you the chance to search through up to ‘135 million publication pages’ and ‘stay up to date with what’s happening in your field’. All of those pages, and all of that ‘up to date’ information has been added by some 17 million academics, as a way to showcase their work. What this means is that Research Gate has become a professional network site for researchers around the world, particularly in scientific disciplines, although it’s increasingly popular with other researchers.

Profiles are largely built around publications, which means that – if you have co-authored with someone who is already on the site – your work might already be there!

Once registered, you can set up a simple profile, upload work (or enter your ORCID to do this automatically), add interest keywords, and ask questions and comment on and request others’ work. You can also ‘follow’ other researchers so that you get updates when they add any new material, and receive notifications when your work is downloaded or cited by others…

screengrab from ResearchGate showing chat and notifications icons

If you like metrics, then ResearchGate also generates information about how much interest your work is generating, which of your publications is most cited, etc.

To learn more:

ResearchGate’s guide to Getting Started https://explore.researchgate.net/display/support/Getting+started

http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/openresearchexeter/2013/11/06/74/  A review of ResearchGate which is still largely accurate despite its age. Be aware that the numbers mentioned are well out of date.

Academia.edu

Academia.edu was the original Showcasing site for researchers, and was hugely popular until about 2013/14 when it started to charge for some of its more ‘premium’ functionality, and was acquired by one of the key academic journal publishing houses. This latter move was probably the most disruptive as it allowed the publisher to enforce the copyright on published work, which was being ignored by some academics, keen to ‘give away’ their work to those who wanted it, whether they had a subscription to the relevant journal or not.

In the wake of its acquisition, some academics boycotted Academia.edu, and it has since struggled to recover its reputation. That said, for some areas of the world less troubled by an ideology of intellectual property freedom, it’s still the go-to site. It has a greater number of registered users than ResearchGate and is popular with a wide range of disciplines, including those in the Arts and Humanities.

The features of Academia are largely the same as for ResearchGate, so any decision about which to join should be based on finding the community that you want to be part of and visible to. Other researchers in your field are likely to know which of these networks is more relevant or do a quick search for key names or topics on the site itself.

To learn more:

Academia’s introduction to setting up a profile: https://support.academia.edu/hc/en-us/articles/360042888154-Profile-Overview

PubMed

PubMed is an example of a more specifically disciplinary repository – in this case, for the Biomedical community. An early version of this guide included PubMed Commons – which was a pilot, and was hugely successful, but has now been closed down, archived, and replaced with PubMed Central. There is also a European partner: Europe PMC.

PubMed remains a repository for biomedical literature (indeed, a mandatory one for work funded by some bodies), and works in a similar way to the other sites listed by allowing you to upload papers (or links to papers), add comments, and respond and discuss with others.

Both PubMeds are key platforms for their fields of work, but both have evolved from the original PubMed. Their evolution demonstrates how important it is – if you want to reap the benefits of sites like this – not to just ‘dump’ work there and then disengage, but to be a part of the community that builds it, and to continue to interact with those others who are also interacting with you.

Clearly, you can’t do this well without investing some time. And so Social Media is something that – done well – takes some planning and a commitment of involvement. And that’s something we’ll pick up in a later post.

Social Media – Part II – A few things to consider before we show you what’s available.

Having looked at the potential value of Social Media for you, and for your career, we can start to look at what platforms, sites and tools are available.

Before we begin, a few provisos:

First, to make this section as useful as possible, it focuses on sites with active communities engaging with academic material and issues. Guides to ‘all’ social media are available, but it’s not useful to reproduce them unnecessarily. Where we refer to them, we’ll point you to where you can find them for yourself.

Second, the focus of this section will be generally sites for ‘academic audiences’. If your objective is to engage with specific audiences (particularly specific non-academic audiences) then they are likely to be active on many of the sites we look at, but may also have their own specialist communities. A conversation with people in these networks, either online or face-to-face will help you discover these.

Third, Social media changes and develops constantly, and this guide will only be updated periodically, so this shouldn’t be considered a definitive list. Happily, Professor Andy Miah from Salford University maintains a list of the social media resources used by academics which is updated regularly (the last update was Oct 2019). This gives a sense of the variety of sites available, and contains a brief description of each site, with some examples of researcher-led pages.

Fourth, because Social Media sites are user-driven, their content, culture, and usefulness often reflects their user-base. This can initially be a bit frustrating – particularly if you’re unfamiliar with them – as you’re never quite sure where to start. In time, that frustration can give way to creativity, as you get to know them, and find ways to harness their flexibility as multi-purpose communication tools. A good rule of thumb is to watch before you engage, and to start with sites that have a clear academic focus and offer features which map against the common activities and needs of researchers across the board. These features develop and evolve, but a comparison of some academic focused sites from 2015 attempted to compare a number of them with a view to the future of academic Social Media use. As with many of the resources referred to in this guide, the associated comments and reactions are as informative as the article itself.

Finally, although most sites won’t mention this up front, they all have to find ways to pay for themselves. How they do this, and what impact that has on the kind of audience, functionality, use of data, etc. is important to consider, therefore.  None of the sites and platforms we will mention charge for access or reasonable use, but it is useful to be aware of their business models and how they maintain viability. Most sites will use your personal data as a business asset and generate income through advertising which will appear in your stream. Some operate in partnership with other organisations – something that may not always be explicit and obvious. Some charge for ‘additional’ functionality. We mention this not to put you off, but to ensure that you stop for a moment and think about the fact that a “free” service needs to generate an income stream and that you should be aware that the data and information you provide may be the source of this. If you are interested in the different funding and income generating models for social media, this article on the different approaches to financial sustainability taken by three research-focused sites, may be of interest.

So, with those reminders in place, on… to the various sites:

Subscribe By Email

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

This form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.