20 March 2009

Social media for agricultural science?

Looking back on 20 years of the world wide web, the Economist reports on the original "bland title' of a document written by Tim Berners-Lee in March 1989: "Information Management: A Proposal." It argues that "his proposal, modestly dubbed the world wide web, has fulfilled the implications of its name beyond the wildest dreams of anyone involved at the time."

The short article illustrates ways that scientists are "using the web to further their research." However, it suggests that scientists have "tended to lag when it comes to employing the latest web-based social-networking tools to open up scientific discourse and encourage more effective collaboration."

"Scientists publish, in part, because their careers depend on it. They keenly keep track of how many papers they have had accepted, the reputations of the journals they appear in and how many times each article is cited by their peers, as measures of the impact of their research. These numbers can readily be put in a curriculum vitae to impress others.

By contrast, no one yet knows how to measure the impact of a blog post or the sharing of a good idea with another researcher in some collaborative web-based workspace."

CIAT's Simone Staiger recently shared a presentation to colleagues on the Potential of Social Media for Improving Organizational, Project and Personal Impact in an agricultural research institute. She invites them to join the social web, to increase their 'impact pathways' by increasing their networks and reaching out to more users.

Such social approaches were one of the features of the recent Rome sharefair; they were also used to report on IAALD's 2008 World Congress.

They are thus spreading among agricultural information, knowledge and communication people. However, demonstrating the personal and professional 'business case' for social media in science is going to be an important step towards wide adoption of these approaches and tools.

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