Digital technology and the Internet are changing many aspects of society. Although academia is at the cutting edge of research, it can be a particularly traditional and conservative sector of society. Even in universities, though, practices and values are changing due to the possibilities of social media and the internet. In the UK, some of these changes include the impact agenda and the open access agenda, together with the strong competition over jobs and funding. Researchers need a good understanding of these sector-wide changes and how they want to respond to them.
Early career researchers are in a special position: on short-term contracts, temporarily associated with an institution, often part of a team headed by a more established and better-known senior academic. They need to build a reputation amongst their peers, potential collaborators, prospective employers and publishers and demonstrate the impact of their work through partnerships and public engagement. Social media can play a key role in this.
This programme isn’t an IT training course. We will be exploring the functionality of social media tools so you know how to use them, but this is the easy bit! The programme’s deeper aim is to help you understand the principles of using social media effectively and efficiently, and develop the confidence to explore new tools yourself.
The programme doesn’t aim to convert you to social media. It does aim to encourage you to experiment with and reflect on the tools, so that you can understand the pros and cons from your own experience, and make an informed decision about the extent to which you want to engage.
The programme doesn’t aim to ‘sell’ or promote the use of particular tools. It does aim to help you explore them in structured, safe way in the context of your work, and make your own decision about whether you want to use them further. It also aims to help you understand social media in general, so you can approach new tools which will be developed in the future with a set of criteria to assess their potential.
The programme won’t tell you what you should do with social media tools. It will invite you to think about the potential they offer in various aspects of your work as an early career researcher in the STEM disciplines, and help you to think about how you might use and integrate them. To begin with, we will be using them to interact with the network of other participants on the course, but whether you use them beyond this is up to you!
To sum up, the aims of STEMDigital are to develop:
- an awareness of the ways in which social media and digital technologies can enhance or impact on your work
- an understanding of the issues raised by social media and digital technologies, including potential pitfalls, good practice, and the ways in which they are changing the profession of academia and beyond
- a critical, reflective framework with criteria which will help you to evaluate current, new and future digital social media tools, and make informed decisions about your own engagement with them