The Charleston Observatory, research wing of the Charleston Conference, took social media as its topic to research during 2010. It conducted a survey of 4,012 people in 215 countries, seeking to answer the following questions:
- Are socialmedia impacting upon researcher workflows?
- If so, how should publishers and librarians respond?
- How influential are age and other factors in shaping the demand for social media?
Here are the key findings:
- There is a big gap between awareness and use. With 1 exception (collaborative authoring), social media have not yet made big inroads into researcher workflows. People use it in their everyday lives, and it is beginning to spill over into their research work.
- They use very generic services: Skype, Wikipedia, YouTube, Google Docs.
- Social netowrking offers more than just another channel for disseminating research findings. Researchers find these tools useful across the entire research cycle, except for analyzing research data, in ways we would expect.
- There appears to be a need for simple tools to support the analysis of research data and perhaps easier ways to identify grants.
- The main benefits are those expected. There was little consensus whether social media help provide greater esteem or more citations as a result of higher visibility.
- Use of social media so far seems to be mainly driven by curiosity; management initiatives are less influential. People have the technology (high speed networks, etc.) to enable them to easily check out this technology.
- There are major differences between the age groups of social media users, but the picture is complex.
- Researchers want the basics put in order. They want the ability to access the source data. There is little enthusiasm for multilingual capability or RSS feeds. They are enthusiastic on the idea that libraries should index the full text of their licensed content. There is little interest in the library preserving and curating library content. They want the library to be more like Google.
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor