Academia resists social media use

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Most university scholars resist using social media to spread scientific findings as well as engage their students, said a Michigan State University researcher in a new paper.

Despite its prevalent use in fields such as business and journalism, not only to market a product but also to engage readers and clients in open dialogue, social media has failed to penetrate academia’s so-called ivory tower.

Christine Greenhow, assistant professor in MSU’s College of Education, said this is troubling considering that universities in Europe and the United States are looking to increase access to publically funded research.

Greenhow noted that only a handful of university researchers use social media to make their results and published insights available to the public, even as public universities aim “to create knowledge that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Although there is evidence that some faculty members are publishing their work via social media, Greenhow believes that this is not likely to become widespread unless certain policies for promotion and tenure are provided by universities to reward these practices.

Out of the 1,600 researchers polled, only 39 per cent use Facebook, 28 per cent use YouTube and 15 per cent use Twitter for professional purposes.

Most of those who use social media do so primarily to find collaborators and spread their work and that of others rather than to teach their students.

“Academia is not serving as a model of social media use or preparing future faculty to do this,” said Greenhow.

Entitled “Social scholarship: Reconsidering scholarly practices in the age of social media”, the paper is co-authored by MSU doctoral student of education Benjamin Gleason. It appears online in the British Journal of Educational Technology.

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