RiLIES report highlights 3: the deployment of social media for research impact
May 9, 2012 Leave a comment
In a blog post that we published on February 2 2012 we announced that the full report of the Research in Librarianship Impact Evaluation Study (RiLIES1) was available to download, and that we would be blogging highlights of the report over the coming weeks. This is the third of the RiLIES1 highlights postings. Here we present our findings on the role of social media in enhancing the impact of research projects in practice.
The broad aim of our first RiLIES project was to investigate the extent to which funded research projects in the domain of library and information science (LIS) influence practice in the UK. It focused particularly on identifying factors that increase or hinder the impact of research findings on those who deliver library and information services.
The literature reviewed for the RiLIES1 project had surprisingly little to say about social media. For example, an apparently comprehensive list of possible communication channels drawn up by Haddow and Klobas in 2004 lacked any reference to social media, even though familiar services such as blogs, RSS, and some social networking services (for example, LinkedIn) were already established at the time that this work was published.
In contrast, our own empirical study acknowledges that researchers have many options for engaging practitioners in research projects from the outset, and these can be supported by social media. One of the main purposes of adopting social media during a research project is to promote a collaborative approach to research. Practitioners who are invited to learn about projects as they unfold feel engaged with the process. In addition frustrations related to the timeliness of the “traditional” publication of research results may be addressed. When practitioners are aware of project progress, for example through reading project blog posts, they have quick access to interim results, and may therefore be encouraged to consider these in their practice immediately.
A second main finding of our work was that work-place blocking of important social media routes to research output (such as Twitter) is a significant issue for many practitioners. Such institutional practice limits the extent to which practitioners are able to keep in touch with professional peers, and leads to a feeling of exclusion from the wider community.
These two main findings suggest that (1) the deployment of social media to support dissemination strategies needs to be built into the planning stages of research projects, and (2) a significant change in practice is required in many workplaces so that staff are actually permitted access to important social media services (such as Twitter) when at work. With reference to (2) researchers need to ensure that they use multiple routes to reach practitioners so that those whose access to particular services is limited do not miss out on important project news. Given the paucity of discussion of social media’s role in the dissemination of LIS research, we also suggest that this theme merits further exploration as a research topic in its own right.
Our next RiLIES1 report highlights post will review key lessons from “impactful” research projects.
To read further details of the study please see the full RiLIES1 report, freely available to download.
Haddow, G., & Klobas, J. E. (2004). Communication of research to practice in library and information science: Closing the gap. Library & Information Science Research, 26(1), 29-43.