Ten Online Networks

What is research capacity? Research capacity and TEL SPNECRE Tens of things

While participants in SPNECRE and more widely acknowledged the importance of the close ties and intensive collaborations involving project members, supervisors and other students, they also confirmed the importance of developing and maintaining wider networks.

In some cases the purpose of this networking was to find like-minded researchers working in similar fields and facing similar or at least analogous challenges; in others, the whole point was to engage with different points of view and to make the most of the heterogeneous network population.

All of the networks listed here are online – but differ in that some exist only because of the online environment (with participants rarely if ever meeting); some are the online manifestation of other organisations such as associations or conferences; and some have been established by participants themselves in order to maintain relationships initiated ‘face-to-face’. This is far from complete and the online network landscape changes rapidly – see for example, the ‘Low-Cost/No-Cost’ page for examples of citation management applications which now provide the basis for social networks.

Generic Networks being Used By Researchers

Facebook (http://www.facebook.com) As well as being used by countless individuals to manage their personal networks, Facebook groups have been established by researchers, students and conference attendees.  For example, groups exist for members of the American Educational Research Association (existing organisation); the ‘Qualitative Research Global Network’ (established online) and many subject associations, practitioner research groups and advocacy organisations.

Ning (http://www.ning.com) Ning provides a technological framework and hosting services for organisations which want to establish an online ‘social network’, with options ranging from low-cost support for small groups with limited features (and advertising) to more expensive and extensive arrangements for large groups.  A good example of a successful network combining face-to-face events and online activities is ELESIG (Evaluation of Learners’ Experiences of e-learning Special Interest Group): http://elesig.ning.com

(Mainly) Student Networks

The two examples of student networks cited by SPNECRE participants highlight the diverse ways in which online networking evolves.  Graduate Junction (http://www.graduatejunction.net/) was established to support postgraduate students by providing information, advice, news of funding opportunities and support for groups.  PhDComics (http://www.phdcomics.com/) began as a comic strip about the life of postgraduate students, but the associated discussion forum has become the focus for a large and international community of (mainly science and engineering) students and early career researchers.

More General Academic Networks

More general academic networks include:

  • Academia.edu (http://www.academia.edu/): academic profiles, publications, alerting, personal contacts
  • ResearchGate (http://www.researchgate.net/): science-orientated; supports groups with collaboration tools
  • ARNET Miner (http://arnetminer.org/): less about building than exploring social, co-authorship and citation networks, mining publications and conference proceedings and tracking ‘work in progress’

Research Methods

Sage Publishers have established Methodspace (http://www.methodspace.com/) as a social network and discussion space for (mainly social science) researchers.  Also contents alerting, news, events, and support for groups.  More specialised is myExperiment (http://www.myexperiment.org/) which allows sharing and group formation around ‘workflows’ – while most of these to date are related to science, this may have potential to support other kinds of research activities.

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