Twenty-first century academia Getting to know social media tools for students

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Social media; only two words, but they carry the power to change the world.

Social networks originated as a means to connect with your friends and colleagues in an easy and convenient way. Many of you may have found your old pals from school who were out of touch for one reason or other, and while social networks have provided us the opportunity to connect with people and build better relationships, social media platforms are also becoming essential for academia, not just for the promotion of research but for research development as well.

If properly used, social media has the power to enrich academic working life in a way that also provides some added value. Here the Gradzette presents five great platforms that you should consider joining in order to enhance your 21st century academic experience. Welcome to the digital world!

LinkedIn

You could be a first-year graduate student or a post-doc looking for your next challenge in the academy or in the industry. Whatever goals you have, your career path will rely heavily on your qualifications and experience but not just that; smart marketing/self branding can get you farther than your dry qualification can. Of course, if you have spent enough time in the scientific niche you already know what makes a successful scientist: observations skills, innovative mind, a bit of luck and… healthy marketing capabilities.

Scientists sell their ideas every day, whether over a podium or through the flickering computer screens so they might as well harness these capabilities to sell themselves as a brand. I suggest that whether you’ve just started your graduate school or are on the last sentence of your dissertation, do yourself a big favour, and open an account at LinkedIn.com.

At over 200 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is the biggest social network focused on promoting professional connections. That’s already one good reason to setup an account and join the vast pool of professionals that connect and share insights, thoughts and tips. LinkedIn also provides the ability to have an upgraded version of your CV online and available for Human Resource (HR) and recruiters to find you. One point to remember is that LinkedIn should be joined as soon as you can and updated regularly, especially when you approach the time of job seeking.

ResearchGate

ResearchGate is a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. It has been described as a combination of “Facebook,Twitter, and LinkedIn” that includes profile pages, comments, groups, job listings, and ‘like’ and ‘follow’ buttons. Members are encouraged to share raw data and failed experiment results as well as successes, in order to avoid repeating their peers’ scientific research mistakes. Out of curiosity, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is among the company’s investors.

ResearchGate has 2,600 groups covering various projects and lab methods, with those communities replacing what had traditionally been published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at seminars. It’s about presenting work in progress and sharing practical research tips.

According to its founder, scientists and researchers from 196 countries and principalities are contributing to the site, with users in the US, UK, Germany and India making up the bulk of its three-million-plus registered users.

Google Scholar & Google Citation

Instead of the Thomson ISI Web of Science, Publish or Perish why not use Google Scholar data to calculate your citations? An important practical reason for this is that Google Scholar is freely available to anyone with an Internet connection and is generally praised for its speed. The Web of Science is only available to those academics whose institutions are able and willing to bear the (quite substantial) subscription costs of the Web of Science and other databases in Thomson ISI’s Web of Knowledge.

You can create a profile and from there, when someone searches for scientific papers using Google Scholar, it is possible to find you and all your publications by making your profile public so that it may appear in Google Scholar results when people search for your name. The page contains a list of all your publications (including patents, conference proceedings, papers, thesis, articles, etc.), the number of citations, and your main collaborators/co-authors.

You can check who is citing your publications, graph citations over time, and compute several citation metrics. It is a very easy way to track your progress in academia and you can even make it easier for people to find you through Google!

Prezi

One of the greatest innovations in education was the blackboard. For the first time in history, teachers could present their lessons visually and engage students to participate in the conversation. The whiteboard has done the same for business—helping us to explore and share ideas more effectively. Prezi is a virtual whiteboard that transforms presentations from monologues into conversations: enabling people to see, understand, and remember ideas.

Prezi is a Hungarian software company, created in 2008 in order to replace the ordinary slide-based presentations. It is possible to share slides and make presentations available online. There are many discussions about the real utility of Prezi in academic presentations. It is really interesting, however, the effects available might attract more attention than the actual ideas. So, if you decide using it, use it with moderation.

Academia.edu

Academia.edu is useful for networking. You can explore other disciplines, outside of your specialty, and make some useful contacts. It is wise, however, to not use Academia.edu like Facebook, to be “friends” with a bunch of people. On Academia.edu, you can elect to “follow” people, but the relationship is not reciprocal.

Usually you will follow a few people, mainly interesting scholars. You get a notice when people sign up to follow you and then you can decide if you want to follow back. It was launched in September of 2008 and the site now has over three million registered users. The platform can be used to share papers, monitor their impact, and follow the research in a particular field.

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