Social media has changed academic work, from the way they’re promoted to the way readers interact with them. The authors of a new paper examine how social media impacts the generation of new ideas, the writing of research papers, and the definition of scholarship.
The authors cite four characteristics of present-day scholarship that have been significantly altered by social media. First, the process of peer review has taken on new meaning. Now, authors can get digital feedback on their articles via Tweets, likes, and rating systems. It’s also much easier for readers to interact with authors. While this creates opportunities for meaningful dialogue, the authors point out that journalists and social media influencers can have a powerful voice in shaping conversations in misleading ways.
In addition to these new forms of feedback, academics must now concern themselves with alternative metrics on their articles, such as PDF downloads, page views, Facebook shares, and Wikipedia cites. These alternative metrics can provide a substantial amount of data to authors, but the authors found they were also a significant source of stress.
The ubiquity of social media also means authors must now deal with online harassment. This problem is particularly harmful to women as they are twice as likely as men to be sexually harassed online. Being an academic makes them no safer. It’s important for scholars to be aware of these issues and know how to deal with them.
Finally, the authors mention the need for academics to develop new dispositions, literacies, and skills regarding social media use. Instead of assuming that all scholars have such skills, the academic world should confront the reality that there are systemic and structural inequalities regarding digital literacies. Thus, it makes sense for scholars to have some training in how to navigate the online academic world.
In light of these four changes, the authors of this study coin the term social scholarship a moniker for the present-day close relationship between academic work and social media. Social scholarship is a skill that should be taught in academic programs and can be improved. Just like social media itself, social scholarship can prove to be a blessing and a curse, the former for spurring greater readership and dialogue with authors, and the latter for spawning more stress for scholars.Unsplash.