Annual Meeting Reports

Viewing Social Media through Different Lenses

This session highlighted different forms of social media. Barbara Meyers Ford moderated and presented the session. She began by underscoring the fact that social media include more than 190 social networks in addition to Facebook and Twitter. Another medium—social bookmarking— is growing in popularity. CiteUlike, which launched in 2004, focuses on the needs of researchers and is sponsored by Springer; BibSonomy, which aims to integrate the features of bookmarking systems, launched in 2006.

Ford noted that there are roughly two dozen online communities, such as, which began in 2008 and supports 2.5 million academics, and Yammer, a “freemium” social-network service that is used for private communication within or among organizations. Data-sharing sites, such as DataCite, which formed in 2009, are also popular and not meant for the general public. Ford noted the online paper “Social Bookmarking in STM: Putting Services to the Acid Test”1 as an excellent source for reviewing social media.

Darrell W Gunter, founder and CEO of the Gunter Media Group, focused on social media and the publishing cycle and how publishers can enhance social media for researchers. He highlighted three online communities—Mendeley,, and Research Gate—and showed how they assist researchers in creating partnerships with others in a network. Gunter advised publishers to work with authors and researchers in their own communities to create similar partnerships. As an example, Gunter discussed his experience with, which launched in January 2009. revealed the often complex relationships between authors and coauthors. The site created a network of author connections and aggregated and analyzed information (the site was later purchased by Elsevier).

Gunter closed by suggesting that publishers ask three questions regarding their social-media sites:

  • Are you improving the researcher’s productivity?
  • Are you solving a problem for the researcher?
  • Are you providing a new service to the researcher?

As a resource, Gunter suggested The Digital Deca: 10 Management Truths of the Web Age.2

Bill Jackson, a molecular biologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, discussed social media and the molecular biologist. As a tool for researcher networking, Jackson noted that Facebook is inflexible and Twitter serves as an alerting system rather than a networking tool. Jackson does find Google+ useful because it is flexible, there are no length restrictions on posts, and it is a well-built social-media tool; however, Google+ has few users.

Jackson noted that research-sharing and data-sharing sites are plagued by the problem that many researchers do not want to share what they are reading with a larger group because they do not want competitors to guess their research directions through reading lists. In both explaining and promoting their work to others and in learning about work relevant to them, social media, in their current state, are markedly underused by the scientists that Jackson knows.

  1. Reher S, Haustein S. Social bookmarking in STM: Putting services to the acid test. Online: Exploring technology & resources for information professionals. 34(6).
  2. Welchman L. The digital deca: 10 management truths of the Web age. WelchmanPierpoint.