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From the Ivory Tower to Social Media

Two years ago, I read with envy that Mayo Clinic had included social media and digital activities in their criteria for academic promotion. That is not yet the case locally in the Philippines, and I wonder if that will ever come to pass. While perhaps, wishing for this to be so may seem self-serving considering my participation on social media, I definitely agree with Dr. Daniel Cabrera, when he said –

The moral and societal duty of an academic healthcare provider is to advance science, improve the care of his/her patients and share knowledge. A very important part of this role requires physicians to participate in public debate, responsibly influence opinion and help our patients navigate the complexities of healthcare. As Clinician Educators our job is not to create knowledge obscura, trapped in ivory towers and only accessible to the enlightened; the knowledge we create and manage needs to impact our communities.

I feel this acutely as I am a tenured professor in a state university. I know of the brilliant work done by colleagues and wish there was some way to bring it across to the public on social media.

Perhaps, as most academic leaders are not themselves on social media, they are unable to imagine how it can be used in a scholarly fashion. I remember writing my Slideshare URL (which has the slide decks of my academic presentations) in my list of accomplishments at one call for promotion. I was asked why I was including these slide decks when certainly, anyone who teaches would have these. I argued that sharing them online can be considered a public service as I make them available not only for viewing but also for download. Slideshare keeps track of the number of downloads so I am able to present some form of metric to support its impact. I remember too at one faculty workshop where I presented this and a colleague jokingly remarked, but how can we be sure that you didn’t download your deck 10,000 times?

I’ve also been asked if sharing my work on social media is a form of self-promotion, which some in the academe may find distasteful. There have been raised eyebrows when I talk about “academic branding” using social media.

In The “Ivory Tower” Appears Reluctant to Use Social Media, Christopher Bergland  interviewed Christine Greenhow, author of Social Scholarship: Reconsidering Scholarly Practices in the Age of Social Media, and she said –

I’m arguing that we need more “social scholars.” Social scholars use social media to publish and interact with scholarly output and to join an online community around their topic. Social scholarship is characterized by openness, conversation, collaboration, access, sharing and transparent revision… engaging an informal, social review process may help surface inaccuracies and engage a wider, nonspecialist audience.

Do you think though that academics should pitch their work to social media? Kristal Brent Zook asks in Academics: leave your ivory towers and pitch your work to the media

As both a veteran journalist and a scholar, I’ve often wondered why academics don’t make more of an effort to publish for general audiences. Why don’t we hear more from the doctors behind the data?

Zook asked academics and found that academics need to unlearn how they write for a scientific journal when engaging with the public. It takes practice to write an essay in the first person and in plain language. Should academics take Journalism 101?

Join us for the #HealthXPH tweet chat on 14 July 2018, 9 pm Manila time to discuss social media scholarship.

T1. Do you think that there are enough university professors, researchers and scientists sharing their academic work on social media? Why or why not?

T2. Cite some barriers why university professors, researchers and scientists do not write about their academic work for the general public.

T3. How can university professors, researchers, scientists be enticed to share their academic work on social media?


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