This week, I am attending the U.K. e-Science All Hands Meeting in Cardiff, Wales, and I will write blog posts about talks I enjoyed. I have often wondered about the use of social media and Web 2.0 in scientific research, but have not so far seen a systematic study of their use and impact. So I was delighted to hear a talk by Ellen Collins of the Research Information Institute, a British policy unit that investigates how researchers use information media and recommends policies and best practices.
In July 2010, RIN published the results of a survey on how scientists use social media and Web 2.0, called “If You Build It, Will They Come.” No, apparently, they won’t! The survey included social, physical and biological sciences, and use of Web 2.0 is in fact spotty at best. The biggest barrier is evidently a lack of understanding of how to get started, and what benefits will accrue to scientists. This is, indeed, in line with my own thoughts. I have tried to figure out, for example how use Twitter to support astronomy, and have had a lot of trouble coming up with a good answer. Consequently, RIN is collaborating with the University of Huddersfield to produce “25 Things for Researchers,” which will advise scientists on the best way to exploit Web 2.0 to support collaboration and information sharing. I look forward to reading it when it is launched.