UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Using Social Media to Publish/Share Ideas/Opinions Which Have Not Been Peer Reviewed

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 Jan 2013

In The Bell, Listening to Fat Man Swings

Fat Man Swings at The Bell

Fat Man Swings at The Bell (I responded to a tweet during the break)

Last night I was in The Bell in Bath listening to Fat Man Swings when I noticed someone had mentioned me in a tweet:

@NSRiazat no but briankelly may be able to help

The message related to a discussion on the #phdchat Tweetchat during which Nasima Riazat (@NSRiazat) asked:

Has anyone used social media to publish/share ideas/opinions which have not been peer reviewed prior to sharing? #phdchat

According to her Twitter biography Nasima Riazat is “#PhDchat moderator. PhD research expertise in capacity building, distributed leadership, leadership sciences, developing middle leaders – Open University UK“. Her question was therefore very relevant for those who participate in the #phdchat discussions, which I have commented on previously.

The question, and its timing, may well horrify those who do not ‘get’ Twitter and are worried about being inundated with tweets during every hour of the day and having to respond during out-of-work hours. However established Twitter users will understand that Twitter provides a steady stream of content which you can dip into when it suits you and @ messages can often be ignored. On this occasion I felt the question was of interest and so I responded during the break to say I would address the question. The interaction, incidentally, including taking and posting a photo of the band probably took less than a minute.

Publishing and Sharing Ideas Which Have Not Been Peer Reviewed

Back in October, during Open Access Week I gave a series of talks on Open Practices for the Connected Researcher at the universities of Exeter, Salford and Bath in which I described the benefits which social media could provide for researchers. The talk was based on personal experiences of use of social media to support my peer-reviewed papers, especially in the area of Web accessibility. I described how social media could be used to develop one’s professional network (with the example of how I met Sarah Lewthwaite (@slewth) on Twitter and subsequently collaborated on a paper which won an award at an international conference). I also described how use of services such as Twitter and Slideshare could be used by one’s co-authors during a conference presentation in order to maximise the numbers of views of the paper and accompanying slides by those who have a particular interest in the conference – those who may subsequently cite the paper in their own research publications or take actions based on the ideas described in the paper.

But although social media has proven value in developing one’s professional network and enhancing access to research publications, the question which was raised addressed a different scenario: Has anyone used social media to publish/share ideas/opinions which have not been peer reviewed prior to sharing?

I suspect the answer to this question will be influenced by the area of research together with personal approaches towards openness and the culture within one’s research group or host institution.

In my case my areas of research are based on the Web (Web accessibility, Social Web, Web preservation, Web standards and institutional repositories). My organisation (and our funders) has always been supportive of open access for the research outputs. In addition I have sought to embrace open practices in my work. I should add that I do not feel that others should adopt similar approaches; as I described in a post on The Social Web and the Belbin Model my preferred roles as a ‘plant’ and ‘resource investigator’ in the Belbin model are well-aligned with use of social media services such as blogs. I am therefore comfortable with the notion of exposing one’s ideas to public view at early stages, with the intention that flaws in the ideas will be identified at an early stage and the value of the ideas will be enhanced by contributions from others.

For me the ideas published in a blog post (or even a tweet) can be subsequently developed and used in a peer-reviewed paper. As an example, in September 2012 I wrote a brief post which asked “John hit the ball”: Should Simple Language Be Mandatory for Web Accessibility? After the post had been published I came across a tweet from @techczech (Dominik Lukes) which commented:

Should Simple Language Be Mandatory for Web Accessibility? < Bad idea for #a11y – ignorant of basic #linguistic facts

I looked at Dominik’s Twitter biography (“Education and technology specialist, linguist, feminist, enemy of prescriptivism, metaphor hacker, educator, (ex)podcaster, Drupal/Wordpress web builder, Czech.“) and followed the link to his blog and read his post on “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?”: What every learning technologist should know about accessible documents #ALTC2012. I realised that we had similar interest so I decided to follow him on Twitter and then had an interesting phone conversation on Web accessibility and language issues.

I subsequently submitted a brief paper on this topic with Alastair McNaught, JISC TechDis, to the W3C WAI’s online symposium on “Easy to Read” (e2r) language in Web Pages/Applications. As described in a post on ‘Does He Take Sugar?’: The Risks of Standardising Easy-to-read Language the paper was not accepted. However since we were not restricted to the 1.00 word limit imposed by the organisers of the online symposium Alastair and I expanded on our original which were further developed through the contribution provided by Dominik. Our article entitled ‘Does He Take Sugar?’: The Risks of Standardising Easy-to-read Language was published in the Ariadne ejournal just before Christmas.

Although the article was not peer-reviewed we have subsequently realised that the ideas described in the article could provide a new insight into our previous work in developing a framework for making use of accessibility guidelines such as WCAG. We are currently discussing how we can build on these new insights.

To summarise, a brief blog post was commented on in a tweet. This led to an exchange of tweets, a phone call, a joint Skype call and a joint article – with an understanding that we will look for opportunities for further collaboration. Without the blog post and without the tweet, this would not have happened!

View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] – []


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