To some, everyday life feels like a never-ending battle to keep abreast of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and a host of other social networks.
But academics arguably have it even harder. In addition to these networks, there are a potentially overwhelming number of digital academic communities, such as academia.edu, ResearchGate.net and Google Scholar, on which to maintain the impression of a successful and productive researcher.
This proliferation of academic social networks is a time-wasting “disservice” to academics, a conference in the Netherlands heard last week.
Chantelle Rijs, project lead for yet another academic network, Loop, told the 2:AM Amsterdam altmetrics conference on 8 October that academics “do not want to have to populate lots of different types of research profiles”.
She later added: “We agree that it should be one centralised profile.”
In the UK, the past decade has seen Facebook triumph over rivals MySpace and Bebo in the war for social media clicks. But in academia, it is unclear which network – if any – will win out.
Jeroen Bosman, a citation database expert from Utrecht University who is researching digital tools used in universities, has so far found 23 separate social networks for scholars.
Not only do multiple networks consume academics’ time, tweeted James Hardcastle, a research manager at publisher Taylor and Francis, but “social networks need critical mass to add value. The ever-increasing number risks devaluing the existing networks”, he added, tweeting in a personal capacity while attending 2:AM.
But another delegate, Stacy Konkiel, a research metrics consultant, questioned whether the proliferation was necessarily a problem, tweeting “to play devil’s advocate: is that a bad thing, if each do something special? Do we really want a ‘one profile to rule them all?’”
One solution to the problem of multiple profiles may be ORCID, an international scheme that assigns a unique identifier to researchers to prevent name mix-ups. Academics can add their research profile to the system and then sync it with other networks, such as Elsevier’s Scopus database.