09 July 2010

Social media for research communication: Opportunities and threats

From 5-7 July 2010, ILRI and IKM Emergent hosted a learning and exchange workshop in Nairobi on research communication. Participants came from research and development organizations in East and Southern Africa. The wiki from the workshop shows the work of the participants.

The end session included a review by participants of the opportunities and threats provided and posed by social media for research communicators:

The opportunities:
  • we can better manage our e-resources
  • social media add interactivity to our work (it helps 'spread our wings')
  • social media facilitate easy, cheap, speedy finding, sharing and connecting of credible information
  • with social media, we can reac new audiences in real time
  • social media increase the visibility of us and our institutions
  • with social media, it is easier to identify research gaps

The threats:
  • lack of control over social media could lead to over-exposure and abuse of our products
  • we could lose our privacy
  • do they lead to unsocial behaviour, with an over-reliance on personal virtual connections over inter-personal ones.
  • there are threats to the ownership of our work
  • Will ICT-challenged individuals ever buy in to these approaches?
  • social media requires some creativity ... which may be off-putting to people who do not think they are creative
  • limited or low bandwidth holds back social media use
  • social media may be perceived to be time wasting

We also asked participants to identify some next steps they might take resulting from the workshop. Responses included:
  • training colleagues
  • moving from baby steps to giant leaps ...
  • 'BEING' social, there is no other option
  • applying the tools in my own work ...
  • changing the way we approach research work

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