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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
                                             Merrienboer

Description
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
(SHARE-IT). Moreover, we will present findings on young researchers’ behavior and willingness to openly
share their knowledge in the context of web 2.0 technologies.

Abstract
Academic institutions are increasingly trying to distinguish themselves from their competitors on the basis
of 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 that
are fine-tuned to the requirements of these researchers. These programs are usually implemented by
individual faculties and/or departments, each one focusing on the training of domain-specific applications
of 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 they
approach scholarly activities (Fry, Creaser, & Butters, 2009).
          Bailey (1977) refers to this as the existence of different tribes: “Each tribe has [...] a variety of
symbolic ways of demonstrating its apartness from others. Nevertheless, the whole set of tribes possess a
common culture: their ways of construing the world and the people who live in it are sufficiently similar for
them to be able to understand, more or less, each other's culture and even, when necessary, to
communicate with members of other tribes” (as quoted in Becher, 1994, p. 151). In a time where
interdisciplinary research is increasingly called for, such institutional divisions can be counterproductive.
However, while highlighting the differences among disciplines, Bailey also acknowledges that there are
commonalities. There is a “common culture” linking up the “tribes”. In the context of this study, we
interpret “common culture” as all generic knowledge artifacts and skills that are applicable across
academic 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 knowledge
with “newcomers” would provide them with valuable tips and tricks. Yet, we believe that this exchange is
not sufficiently exploited.
          While official PhD programs cover some of these skills, to the best of our knowledge, they
generally are confined to “scratching the surface” of the available knowledge assets. This claim is
supported 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 institutions
should pro-actively support these groups by providing them with the necessary platforms and means to
facilitate this knowledge exchange – e.g. “building bridges between the academic tribes”. This would not
only provide valuable insights on what young researchers might be missing from the official programs. It
would also enable academic institutions to tap into the tacit knowledge and skills of their young researchers
from all disciplines, make it publicly available and showcase their efforts to create an inspiring research
climate.
          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 a
university has addressed this issue by means of a blog that is developed to provide support and help for
academic researchers by using information technology (SHARE-IT). The term web-log, or blog, refers to a
simple webpage consisting of brief paragraphs of different types of information that are called “posts” and
are 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 blog
include 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
supported to use different types of media, including interactive presentations, screen recordings and social
bookmarking tools.
          The contributors are approached by a group of “talent scouts”, who are responsible for identifying
who 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 domain
specific jargon. Additionally, a key aspect of every contribution is to give a practical example of how the
application of the tool has contributed to that author’s work. This increases the relevance of a post and
creates an incentive for the applicable researcher to contribute to the blog by providing them with a
platform to publish and share their research and experiences.
          Next to providing an overview of the SHARE-IT initiative, we will also highlight how young
researchers perceive blogs. Based on the seminal model on a unified theory of acceptance and use of
technology (UTAUT) by Venkatesh and colleagues (2003), we will present results from a questionnaire
that 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 target
group. On the contrary, although the “talent scouts” might be able to identify “talents”, who have valuable
knowledge about a certain topic, the latter group might refrain from openly sharing their insights. Such
hoarding of knowledge has been addressed by Bock and colleagues (2005). Building upon their work, we
will present the results of a second questionnaire that measured the factors supporting or inhibiting
individuals' knowledge sharing intentions. Taken together this study contributes to the discussion about
whether and to what extend young researchers are willing to actively share and access information via web
2.0 technologies.

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

  • 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 Merrienboer Description 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 (SHARE-IT). Moreover, we will present findings on young researchers’ behavior and willingness to openly share their knowledge in the context of web 2.0 technologies. Abstract Academic institutions are increasingly trying to distinguish themselves from their competitors on the basis of 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 that are fine-tuned to the requirements of these researchers. These programs are usually implemented by individual faculties and/or departments, each one focusing on the training of domain-specific applications of 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 they approach scholarly activities (Fry, Creaser, & Butters, 2009). Bailey (1977) refers to this as the existence of different tribes: “Each tribe has [...] a variety of symbolic ways of demonstrating its apartness from others. Nevertheless, the whole set of tribes possess a common culture: their ways of construing the world and the people who live in it are sufficiently similar for them to be able to understand, more or less, each other's culture and even, when necessary, to communicate with members of other tribes” (as quoted in Becher, 1994, p. 151). In a time where interdisciplinary research is increasingly called for, such institutional divisions can be counterproductive. However, while highlighting the differences among disciplines, Bailey also acknowledges that there are commonalities. There is a “common culture” linking up the “tribes”. In the context of this study, we interpret “common culture” as all generic knowledge artifacts and skills that are applicable across academic 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 knowledge with “newcomers” would provide them with valuable tips and tricks. Yet, we believe that this exchange is not sufficiently exploited. While official PhD programs cover some of these skills, to the best of our knowledge, they generally are confined to “scratching the surface” of the available knowledge assets. This claim is supported 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 institutions should pro-actively support these groups by providing them with the necessary platforms and means to facilitate this knowledge exchange – e.g. “building bridges between the academic tribes”. This would not only provide valuable insights on what young researchers might be missing from the official programs. It would also enable academic institutions to tap into the tacit knowledge and skills of their young researchers from all disciplines, make it publicly available and showcase their efforts to create an inspiring research climate. 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 a university has addressed this issue by means of a blog that is developed to provide support and help for academic researchers by using information technology (SHARE-IT). The term web-log, or blog, refers to a simple webpage consisting of brief paragraphs of different types of information that are called “posts” and are 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 blog include 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. supported to use different types of media, including interactive presentations, screen recordings and social bookmarking tools. The contributors are approached by a group of “talent scouts”, who are responsible for identifying who 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 domain specific jargon. Additionally, a key aspect of every contribution is to give a practical example of how the application of the tool has contributed to that author’s work. This increases the relevance of a post and creates an incentive for the applicable researcher to contribute to the blog by providing them with a platform to publish and share their research and experiences. Next to providing an overview of the SHARE-IT initiative, we will also highlight how young researchers perceive blogs. Based on the seminal model on a unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) by Venkatesh and colleagues (2003), we will present results from a questionnaire that 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 target group. On the contrary, although the “talent scouts” might be able to identify “talents”, who have valuable knowledge about a certain topic, the latter group might refrain from openly sharing their insights. Such hoarding of knowledge has been addressed by Bock and colleagues (2005). Building upon their work, we will present the results of a second questionnaire that measured the factors supporting or inhibiting individuals' knowledge sharing intentions. Taken together this study contributes to the discussion about whether and to what extend young researchers are willing to actively share and access information via web 2.0 technologies.