Building bridges between academic tribes: Group blogging for young researchers                            across academic ...
supported to use different types of media, including interactive presentations, screen recordings and socialbookmarking to...
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Building bridges between academic tribes: Group Blogging for young researchers across academic disciplines

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We will present results of an experiment that has fostered a pro-active (tacit) knowledge exchange between young researchers across academic disciplines. To this end, we will describe how a university has created a group blog that provides support and help for academic researchers by using information technology. Moreover, we will present findings on young researchers’ behavior and willingness to openly share their knowledge in the context of web 2.0 technologies.

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Building bridges between academic tribes: Group Blogging for young researchers across academic disciplines

  1. 1. Building bridges between academic tribes: Group blogging for young researchers across academic disciplines Martin Rehm, Florian Henning, Joeri Bruynickx, Koen Beumer, Daniëlle Verstegen, Jeroen van MerrienboerDescriptionWe will present results of an experiment that has fostered a pro-active (tacit) knowledge exchange betweenyoung researchers across academic disciplines. To this end, we will describe how a university has created agroup blog that provides support and help for academic researchers by using information technology(SHARE-IT). Moreover, we will present findings on young researchers’ behavior and willingness to openlyshare their knowledge in the context of web 2.0 technologies.AbstractAcademic institutions are increasingly trying to distinguish themselves from their competitors on the basisof their attractiveness for (young) researchers, e.g. doctoral candidates. In order to achieve this goal,universities strive to create an inspiring research climate, providing carefully developed PhD programs thatare fine-tuned to the requirements of these researchers. These programs are usually implemented byindividual faculties and/or departments, each one focusing on the training of domain-specific applicationsof theory. While this is in line with the notion of “situated learning” (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Savery &Duffy, 1995), it also confirms the existence of differences between academic disciplines and the way theyapproach scholarly activities (Fry, Creaser, & Butters, 2009). Bailey (1977) refers to this as the existence of different tribes: “Each tribe has [...] a variety ofsymbolic ways of demonstrating its apartness from others. Nevertheless, the whole set of tribes possess acommon culture: their ways of construing the world and the people who live in it are sufficiently similar forthem to be able to understand, more or less, each others culture and even, when necessary, tocommunicate with members of other tribes” (as quoted in Becher, 1994, p. 151). In a time whereinterdisciplinary research is increasingly called for, such institutional divisions can be counterproductive.However, while highlighting the differences among disciplines, Bailey also acknowledges that there arecommonalities. There is a “common culture” linking up the “tribes”. In the context of this study, weinterpret “common culture” as all generic knowledge artifacts and skills that are applicable acrossacademic disciplines. More specifically, this concept can include tools to archive one’s literature (e.g.Mendeley), as well as statistical software packages (e.g. STATA). We stipulate that academic institutions’research staff possess a vast amount of tacit knowledge about IT-enabled research. Sharing this knowledgewith “newcomers” would provide them with valuable tips and tricks. Yet, we believe that this exchange isnot sufficiently exploited. While official PhD programs cover some of these skills, to the best of our knowledge, theygenerally are confined to “scratching the surface” of the available knowledge assets. This claim issupported by a growing perceived “underground market”, where young researchers form unofficial self-support groups that aim at helping with these more generic skills. We believe that academic institutionsshould pro-actively support these groups by providing them with the necessary platforms and means tofacilitate this knowledge exchange – e.g. “building bridges between the academic tribes”. This would notonly provide valuable insights on what young researchers might be missing from the official programs. Itwould also enable academic institutions to tap into the tacit knowledge and skills of their young researchersfrom all disciplines, make it publicly available and showcase their efforts to create an inspiring researchclimate. Our study investigates how web 2.0 tools can contribute to the goal of supporting such platforms,and investigate the factors influencing the take-up of such tools. To this end, we will first describe how auniversity has addressed this issue by means of a blog that is developed to provide support and help foracademic researchers by using information technology (SHARE-IT). The term web-log, or blog, refers to asimple webpage consisting of brief paragraphs of different types of information that are called “posts” andare arranged chronologically with the most recent first, in the style of an online journal (Anderson, 2007).The SHARE-IT blog is from researchers for researchers and provides a wide range of (multimedia)resources to support the process of conducting research. More specifically, the contributions to the bloginclude items such as how to organize references, as well as how to work with dynamic panel data.Furthermore, in order to develop the applicable resources, contributors to the blog are encouraged and
  2. 2. supported to use different types of media, including interactive presentations, screen recordings and socialbookmarking tools. The contributors are approached by a group of “talent scouts”, who are responsible for identifyingwho possesses valuable information that can benefit an interdisciplinary audience. Once identified, these“talents” are then encouraged to share information, e.g. explain a research tool, without any domainspecific jargon. Additionally, a key aspect of every contribution is to give a practical example of how theapplication of the tool has contributed to that author’s work. This increases the relevance of a post andcreates an incentive for the applicable researcher to contribute to the blog by providing them with aplatform to publish and share their research and experiences. Next to providing an overview of the SHARE-IT initiative, we will also highlight how youngresearchers perceive blogs. Based on the seminal model on a unified theory of acceptance and use oftechnology (UTAUT) by Venkatesh and colleagues (2003), we will present results from a questionnairethat determined young researchers’ behavior in the context of web 2.0 technologies. Furthermore,providing a platform to share information does not necessarily equate to an active participation of the targetgroup. On the contrary, although the “talent scouts” might be able to identify “talents”, who have valuableknowledge about a certain topic, the latter group might refrain from openly sharing their insights. Suchhoarding of knowledge has been addressed by Bock and colleagues (2005). Building upon their work, wewill present the results of a second questionnaire that measured the factors supporting or inhibitingindividuals knowledge sharing intentions. Taken together this study contributes to the discussion aboutwhether and to what extend young researchers are willing to actively share and access information via web2.0 technologies.

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