Are PhD students 'switched on' to social media?

Do you presume that all PhD students are using social media to network and talk about their research work? In March I presented at the 2nd International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education and Training about the use of social media by PhD Students.

Texting by Jhaymesisviphotography, on Flickr
  by  Jhaymesisviphotography
The conference focused on all elements of studying for a doctorate around the globe but this year they included a focus on 'Doctoral Candidates in the Digital Age'. There were a number of really interesting presentations and talks on this theme (all linked to below).

We presented a talk based on a small study of social media use by researchers here in Aberdeen. For this we focused on the results from the PhD students about their social media use. Many presume that the current cohort of students are using social media proficiently for their own benefit. I don't think that tells a true story so wanted to explore what they were doing in more detail.

Are doctoral candidates switched on to the impact of social media?
Dr Heather Doran & Dr Kenneth Skeldon
University of Aberdeen
It might be assumed that today’s doctoral students are aware of and active in the use of social media tools in the course of their work. In this session we question whether doctoral students are really utilising these tools to effectively and responsibly strengthen and progress their work and careers?
In the rapidly evolving area of social media, support and advice is often sporadic, presented with different foci depending on whether training is delivered by individuals, institutions and funding bodies. Differing policy between these groups also causes confusion around how best to use such digital tools. Coupled with this, there are different approaches and guidelines on what is appropriate to be discussed online. Individual social media accounts have come under scrutiny for being ‘self-promoting’ with many opting for a research group output instead. However, this latter approach presents its own difficulties in building attributable voices and a corresponding audience. This landscape can be daunting for those navigating a doctorate and wishing to benefit from these digital tools.
We will address some specific questions, such as whether doctoral candidates have the confidence, knowledge and responsibility to utilise social digital networks in the context of their work and whether those that don’t might be disadvantaged. We will present conclusions based on general surveys of digital use and attitudes by researchers across the globe (Lupton, 2014) and a local, targeted review of attitudes and uptake of social media tools by the University of Aberdeen research community. We will comment on how our analysis and evaluation has informed knowledge to steer effective engagement with the research community about social media including the design and delivery of tailored training modules. Lastly, we will present initiatives to support the use of digital tools aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of doctoral candidates and enriching their skillsets.

The full presentation can be found via  the link below (click on the talk title at the bottom of page 2) - there doesn't seem to be an easy way of sharing this! A Storify of the conference was created for those that want to see further discussion. I'm interested to know what people think about this and to collate any experiences that people might have had as a PhD student or as someone working to support PhD students. Please comment below!

This June I am undertaking a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship to look at the communication of science via social media. I will be traveling to North America and I am looking to connect with people as I go. You can read more about it here.



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