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Social media and the unwritten code of conduct

Being a digital business, you will not be surprised that we are staunch supporters and advocates of social media to promote both yourself as an academic and your research. However, we are keenly aware that the view of social media across the academy ranges from proactive engagement and support, to positive discouragement and suspicion.

In our search for career advice written by academics we have come across a handful of established academics around the world who blog and Tweet on various aspects of career enhancement and academic life. We are focused on finding information to help you to grow and develop your career, be it body language techniques, promoting your research or managing your time well. These are relatively “safe” subjects to write about, but what about experiences of sexism, being wrongly accused of plagiarism, the frustrations of short-term contracts and so on? When can the institution you work for claim ownership of a personal blog in the public domain? What about personal Twitter accounts, LinkedIn profiles, Mendeley profiles, ResearchGate? The list goes on.

In a recent anonymous guest post on one of our favourite blogs, The Research Whisperer, one researcher describes their previously positive experiences of engaging in social media to discuss topics such as:-

  • content of their research
  • their nation’s research policies
  • issues affecting women in science, and early career researchers.

However, since a move to a research-led institution, this activity has met with a negative response by their supervisor and curtailed by the institution. The researcher’s social media activity has been labelled as “defamatory” to the organisation and as contravening the employee code of conduct. Requests by the author for guidelines have not come, hence they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They do not feel able to Tweet or blog as they are wary of how this will impact their current position at the institution. Where does this leave free speech and ownership of personal accounts?

Read here about their experiences.

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