New modes of research – the use of web 2.0 tools for research

Following on from my blog post about how academics use social networking for research I have come across more research into how researchers use and perceive web 2.0 in relation to doing research. So I thought I would try to pull together the resources and research I found. I believe this field is also often called Digital Scholarship (please note: I could be wrong!) and this involves a focus on how to recognise new models of scholarly communication and move beyond the traditional formats/models. Establishing legitimacy in the use of digital tools for research is a key concern as well as an understanding of how these tools can enable researchers to network and access and disseminate knowledge in different ways.

Last year the Research Information Network published a report called: If you build it, will they come? How researchers perceive and use web 2.0(July 2010).  The research was carried out by the Manchester eResearch Centre (MeRC). The Research Information Network is a policy unit funded by the UK higher education funding councils, the seven research councils and the three national libraries.

The study classified participants as: Frequent users (at least weekly activity), Occasional users and Non-users.  In response to the survey question about writing a blog, 84% said never, 12% occasional and 4% frequently.

Other interesting findings were:

  • researchers tend to keep to long-established institutional and professional systems as these are the ways their work would be assessed and rewarded
  • Those who work collaboratively across institutions are more likely to be frequent or occasional users of web 2.0 tools. I guess this is perhaps an obvious result of having to collaborate, nevertheless I think this highlights additional benefits of academics going beyond their discipline, department and institution
  • 13% of respondents said they frequently use web 2.0 social networking services for purposes related to their research.

Researchers of tomorrow

Another project called Researchers of Tomorrow was commissioned by the British Library and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and carried out by Education for Change, an independent consulting and research company. This study focuses on the information-seeking and research behaviour of doctoral students in ‘Generation Y’ (defined here as born between 1982 and 1994). It is a three year research study and the annual report of the second year of the three-year has just been published, this is based on quantitative and qualitative data gathered between March 2010 and February 2011.

  • 72% of Generation Y study participants had used at least one kind of technology to suport research (mainly tool for managing citation/references)
  • They are more likely to be passive rather then active users, i.e. they may read content but not create content.
  • Generation Y students prefer to ask their peers for help rather than seek formal training (they also prefer face to face training)
  • Generally, the supervisors of Generation Y cohort are not interested or up to date on how to use technology in research
  • The perception that using open web technologies and onlineforums lack legitimacy as part of research remains prevalent.

The uncertainty/anxiety about using the web to for research is expressed by the comments of a Gen Y cohort member:

If, for example, we find web based resources that could disappear
(blogs, news stories, message boards etc.) how do you guys go
about keeping a copy of them so you can refer back to them and
prove that they actually existed at some point? I have been
copy[ing] and pasting them into word documents and saving them
that way

Some useful resources for more information:

Current Models of Digital Scholarly Communication by Nancy L. Maron and K. Kirby Smith (2008). Results of an Investigation Conducted by Ithaka Strategic Services  for the Association of Research Libraries.

Paper “Valuing Digital Scholarship: Exploring the Changing Realities of Intellectual Work” (2010) by James P. Purdy and Joyce R. Walker in Profession 2010. New York: Modern Language Association, 2010, pp. 177-95.

Information behaviour of the researcher of the future – the Google Generation (born after 1993)

A gentle introduction to Twitter for the apprehensive academic by Dorothy Bishop, Professor in developmental neuropsychology

How to Start Tweeting (and Why You Might Want To) by Prof Hacker

At the University of Huddersfield a course called “25 Things for Researchers” ran in 2010. The course introduced new PhD students in Huddersfield to a wide range of web 2.0 tools and techniques via an eleven-week online learning programme. You can read more about how this course developed in the article Getting to Know Web 2.0 tools from the University of Huddersfield repository.

Kathrine Jensen


About talintuoh

Supporting and connecting colleagues to develop inspiring and innovative teaching and learning
This entry was posted in professional development, Research, Training, Web 2.0. Bookmark the permalink.

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