Social media – a ‘go-go’ or ‘no-go’ for quality public engagement?

How is social media being used to engage the public with research? What do we know about how to do this well? Who is doing interesting work in this space, and how can we help others to make use of the opportunity? What are the challenges to participating in social media, and how might they be mitigated?

Desk research 

Last year, the NCCPE commissioned a short piece of desk research to explore the use of social media in engaging the public with research. The researcher found:

  • Researchers are mainly using social media for the purposes of peer-to-peer networking and dissemination, and many receive support from their universities to do so.
  • Significantly fewer researchers use social media to open up conversations or invite collaboration from the public. Reasons for this could include:
    • Social media may not be currently perceived by academics as a suitable means to engage the public with university research. By contrast, many large public facing commercial organisations run sophisticated public engagement programmes primarily through social media
    • Concerns that we may lack rigorous analytical tools for engagement through social media
    • Guidance from universities tends to focus only on dissemination and peer-to-peer networking; and support materials are often out of date and cover only the most rudimentary basics of social networking
    • Researchers may be reluctant to embrace social media, because it is still not highly regarded by some sections of the academic community.
    • Researchers may be concerned about how others may respond to their comments, and how quickly this can escalate

We are interested to know whether these conclusions are correct, and would love you to get involved in our 'What Works' process. 

Get involved 

We are looking to develop support for academics who want to engage the public using social media, and we are keen to hear from you!

What excellent practice have we missed? Have you researched the use of social media and have ideas of how to make this work well? Do you have tools to support people wanting to enhance their work in this area? Have you come up with ways of addressing the challenges to engaging in this way? If so, please respond to our call for evidence by Tuesday 6th March. 

Call for Evidence

We are keen to hear about the following:

  • Case studies of practice – from effective sharing of research, consultation, and collaboration we are keen to hear great examples of where this can work well
  • People who are researching the use of social media, and how it can be used to engage the public effectively
  • Tools or resources that have been developed to help support public engagement with research through social media including the assessment of its impact
  • Organisations and individuals within and outside of HE doing interesting work in this space
  • Other responses to our desk research

Following this, we will synthesise the evidence you provide, and host a 'What Works' event on 27th March 2018 in Birmingham for those with expertise and experience in the topic who are also interested in developing good practice resources to inspire researchers to make the most of the opportunity social media presents. All contributions to the synthesis will be credited, and the guide will be available as an open access publication.

So if you have relevant evidence or expertise, join us on the 'What Works' journey to synthesis knowledge and create useful guides helping to ensure high quality engagement through social media is a 'go-go' and not a 'no-go.'

Want to explore a bit more? Read our quick piece of desk research on social media for researchers. 

Desk Research - Social Media for Researchers

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