Social Media for the Researcher

Well, I’ll go ahead and admit it, I’m FOR social media in #HigherEd. So you’ve been warned. This will be an article about it’s awesomeness.

I was wandering twitter just now…looking for updates from @Goodreads to see why their website is down. And this popped up on my feed.

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I didn’t know who Austin Frakt was. But someone in the evaluation field I follow, Stephanie Evergreen, does…and she retweeted it.

So what?? Right?

So now I’m following Austin…because that chart was epic!!! I’m a scientist. I need to communicate my research. I need to communicate to the public!! I’ve TOTALLY used those words!! Now I have a way to be a better communicator! Thanks twitter!!

The epic chart made me click the link to the article…because Austin was genius enough to tuck the article into the tweet. It’s not his article from what I can gather, but still. He’s responsible for me finding and reading this research…that isn’t even his!! You can’t tell me that you wouldn’t get excited if suddenly 6000+ people knew about the awesomeness of YOUR research!! Your research that probably sits forever with maybe 3 citations.

One tweet. 5000 people.

One retweet…another 1000….

Even if only one tenth of the viewers see it…and one tenth of those actually click the article..still…that’s 60 people. And yes I’m making up those statistics…but I can tell you this much…899 people retweeted that tweet….so 899 people saw it, liked it, and shared it…with at a minimum of 899 others (assuming they all have at least 1 follower….)

Are you getting my point yet?

Promote yourself!!!! 10 years ago…this was only done at conferences…maybe here and there around the web…but certainly not on social media.

But now…why not promote it? Self-promote, promote a friend, promote a colleague. Whatever! IT CLEARLY WORKS!!! And now that I mentioned it…the article is going even further (or at least if someone reads this it is).

Think of all that reach!! Think of how impressed a tenure committee would be to see your article getting so many views, downloads, citations, tweets, blogs, blerbs, comments…you get the picture.

So yeah, I’m for social media in higher education. I’m ok with that. Let’s be honest, if anyone EVER shared my research 899 times…I would probably screenshot it and add it to my tenure packet, grant proposal, refrigerator door, and mail a copy to my mom.

Where else can you instantly share your passion with that many strangers? And if your research isn’t something you’re passionate and proud enough about to tweet…then why are you doing it?

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Navigating the Evaluation Factor

Driving to campus a week or so ago I was listening to my trusty NPR and caught the end of this story on Charity Navigator and EVALUATION! I was dorkily excited to hear an evaluation topic being discussed on a national level. So I had to go look the full story up and see what it was all about.

Most of us have at least heard of Charity Navigator. They help you as a donor choose which charity you may want to contribute to, based on the data they have collected. You can always just choose by which charity serves your interests best, but it’s nice to have the data and see how your favorite charity is doing and WHAT they are doing with your money!

Of course, those donors who contribute thousands upon thousands of dollars, or granting organizations REALLY want to know what you are doing with their funds. Thus, Charity Navigator.

According to the story, President and CEO of Charity Navigator Ken Berger is concerned with looking at the measurable outputs of the charities.  The old way of doing this was to compare how much money was spent on the programs to the money spent on overhead (workers, resources, the big boss man’s salary, etc.). Ideally we the donors want to see most of our dollars going to the ACTUAL charity work and only a sliver going to the running of the organization. Ideally. When I fundraised for Team in Training (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) 75% of all donations went straight to programs, doctors, hospitals and research. Only 25% was routed to running TNT and it’s employees. Not a bad split. You’d be shocked at some of the numbers.

But now a new evaluation has been proposed. According to NPR and Berger this evaluation will consist of looking at the OUPUT. (WHAT!?! Logic models maybe!?!?) They will be looking at the problem and actual MEASURES to SOLVE it.

Yeah, the charities freaked out a little bit. My favorite quote was from Doctors Without Borders who wanted to know if they were supposed to go survey their patients in a war torn area on how they enjoyed their care.

They have a point, but still, the evaluator in me is very excited by this new system.

Yes, it will be harder to measure. Yes, it will be complex. Yes, charities will have to PROVE what they are doing. Yes, they will have to have a plan. But most of all…YES YOU NEED AN EVALUATOR!!!

I also appreciated the concern expressed about HOW exactly these evaluations would be judged. Evaluation can have such a negative connotation. Everyone freaks out that they will be judged harshly, funds will be revoked, etc. This is what drives me NUTS about the field that I so much want to make my career in. We are not the bad guys!! Evaluation should be HELPFUL not harmful. It’s honest. It shows you where you need to improve. Kind of like your yearly check-up when you were a kid. We look through things, and tell you where you are doing well, if you’re on track, and where you could improve. Maybe little Suzie needs to exercise a little more. Maybe the charity needs to cut out some overhead or streamline their deliverables. It’s not an end-all-be-all-you-fail-game-over judgement in most cases. Or it shouldn’t be. It’s a status report. It’s up to the directors, CEO’s, powers that be, to take it and act on the information.

I really loved seeing evaluation get some spotlight time. Now if we can just convince everyone we aren’t big, scary, judgy and mean.