Our first Friday in London featured an all-day seminar on public outreach. This included speakers who discussed citizen science initiatives, new ways to use digital technology to help users engage with museum collections, and the various ways researchers are using social media to communicate with members of the public, as well as with each other.
Some of the highlights of the seminar included Piotr Adamczyk’s presentation on the Google Cultural Institute’s initiatives to make museum collections and other cultural sites and artifacts digitally discoverable, Chris Lintott from Oxford University discussing the creation of Galaxy Zoo and many of the other subsequent Zooinverse citizen science projects, and Gracia Edwards from Elsevier highlighting STM Digest, the publisher’s initiative to present lay summaries of original research articles free of charge on Mendeley.
The final session featured three presentations on social media use by academic researchers. Sierra Williams, editor of the LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog, discussed the blog, as well as the reasons academics use–or, often, fail to use–social media for collaboration and for communication with the public. Ann Grand, of The Open University, presented on a similar theme, discussing her research on how researchers view public engagement, as well as how and why they use–or, again, fail to use–social media tools to engage with multiple publics. The final speaker was Charlie Rapple, co-founder of Kudos, a new tool to help researchers share their work, which includes functionality that gives researchers the ability to add lay explanations and enriched content to their work. I need to explore all of these resources more when I get home.
Some of the takeaways from this series of presentations:
- We may know less that we should about what motivates people–which here means everyone from non-experts who want to contribute to a citizen science project to blogging scientists–to use digital tools to communicate research, and stay committed to using these tools, despite the time and effort.
- It is important to identify potential sources of “threshold fear,” or barriers that prevent newcomers from fully engaging in digital research spaces. Some lack of engagement may be due to the fact that people lack confidence.
- Many audiences, with members at various levels of engagement, are using the same digital tools. Said tools need to be designed to accommodate all of them.
- The same barriers are still being cited for researchers’ lack of engagement in social media space: time and lack of institutional support continue to be major factors.
- There is a recognized risk to scholars of not being online, but we don’t talk about it much.
- Reading List: Using Social Media for Research and Public Engagement
- Threshold Fear, Elaine Heumann Gurian