Involving individual scientists in PCST as authentic and highly credible ambassadors of their field of research by means of interactive online media tools has mostly remained a niche phenomenon, at least in Germany, as our recent web technology use and needs analysis has shown, a study which combined an online survey among 700 participants, in-depth interviews with decisionmakers and a standardized analysis of web sites of 9 major scientific institutions in Germany. The aim of the study was to better understand why scientists mostly refrain from using interactive online media. (N.B. publication of results pending at the time of this proposal) Yet the diffusion of web 2.0 tools in academia is only partly a question of technology acceptance. For instance, online communication is still not taken into account in most evaluations or allocations of research funding, thereby raising questions about possible incentives for PCST by scientists themselves. The challenge for communication scholars lies in finding more empirically sound ways to measure, compare or even standardize and audit the impact of such online outreach as a relevant criterion for academic careers, while promising approaches like “Altmetrics” are still in a conceptual phase. At least for another few years we will therefore have to deal with a widening gap between the masses of scientists communicating “scholarly” on the one hand and the very few cutting edge researchers and (mostly large and renowned) institutions experimenting extensively with the new online opportunities on the other. Thus the threat of increasing the already existing imbalances between scientific disciplines is just as evident as the opportunities of increasing transparency and flattening hierarchies. We must not forget that technologies only set the framework whereas the real challenges and solutions are deeply rooted in the scientific culture and in the system of knowledge creation itself. Much will, therefore, depend on the willingness of policy makers to actively steer the system in a certain direction, whilst balancing incentives and regulations on the one hand with the inevitable effect of a further mediatisation of science on the other.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Science caught flat-footed
How academia misses out on social media

Alexander Gerber   German Research Centre for Science & Innovatio Communication, Germany

Janine Neuhaus   Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Involving individual scientists in PCST as authentic and highly credible ambassadors of their field of research by means of interactive online media tools has mostly remained a niche phenomenon, at least in Germany, as our recent web technology use and needs analysis has shown, a study which combined an online survey among 700 participants, in-depth interviews with decisionmakers and a standardized analysis of web sites of 9 major scientific institutions in Germany. The aim of the study was to better understand why scientists mostly refrain from using interactive online media. (N.B. publication of results pending at the time of this proposal) Yet the diffusion of web 2.0 tools in academia is only partly a question of technology acceptance. For instance, online communication is still not taken into account in most evaluations or allocations of research funding, thereby raising questions about possible incentives for PCST by scientists themselves. The challenge for communication scholars lies in finding more empirically sound ways to measure, compare or even standardize and audit the impact of such online outreach as a relevant criterion for academic careers, while promising approaches like “Altmetrics” are still in a conceptual phase. At least for another few years we will therefore have to deal with a widening gap between the masses of scientists communicating “scholarly” on the one hand and the very few cutting edge researchers and (mostly large and renowned) institutions experimenting extensively with the new online opportunities on the other. Thus the threat of increasing the already existing imbalances between scientific disciplines is just as evident as the opportunities of increasing transparency and flattening hierarchies. We must not forget that technologies only set the framework whereas the real challenges and solutions are deeply rooted in the scientific culture and in the system of knowledge creation itself. Much will, therefore, depend on the willingness of policy makers to actively steer the system in a certain direction, whilst balancing incentives and regulations on the one hand with the inevitable effect of a further mediatisation of science on the other.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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