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Defining the Digital Researcher

KMb (Knowledge Mobilization)

The term digital researcher is so new as a career title that a Google search found only vague references to this latest Web 2.0 profession. The term can also be described with the more common term – Internet researcher. Digital researchers can be from any discipline, and use the Internet as a means of gathering information and doing research – specifically pertaining to digital technology and social media.  I first heard the term as discovered by my husband, Dr. David Phipps (one of the innovators behind ResearchImpact) as he was web-surfing. David linked to Vitae – a research website with a Digital Researcher blog and event. I liked the term as it describes the type of research work I’m involved with, but I still coudn’t find any formal definition to describe a Digital Researcher. Up to that point, I was simply calling myself a researcher using the Internet as my main mode of inquiry.  But my enthusiasm for the specific title matched that of David’s.  So, I went searching online to find others like myself doing the same thing – and a definition to go along with it.

First stop, the central Internet encyclopedic source…Wikipedia, but I couldn’t even find a definition there! (Any takers up to the task of starting this new Wikipedia entry???) I did find references to a company called Digital Research, but not much else of help. The closest I came to a similar affiliation is the Association of Internet Researchers in the field of Internet studies, but still not quite a Digital Researcher definition.

The first Google link directed me to a paper written in English by German authors. It’s called The Digital Researcher: Exploring the Use of Social Software in the Research Process, published by Sprouts. According to their website they are “Sprouts: Working Papers on Information Systems (often referred to as ‘Sprouts’) is indexed Open Access outlet of emergent work and working papers carried out primarily by scholars of the information systems field and members of AIS, the Association for Information Systems.”

I am a great proponent of Open Access publications (as you will note from my call for more open access to journal papers in my previous blog). However, one problem that can occur is the lack of proofreading before submitting. A typo here or there can happen, but this paper – perhaps due to language/translation problems – had several typos. Don’t get me wrong; I found the paper very insightful about the research process along with great information about digital media, such as delicious, citeulike, connotea, scienceblog, scientificblogging, technorati, twitter and wikicfp. But Open Access does not mean oversights and sloppy writing.

Unfortunately, the paper is also rather elitist by focusing only on what might be considered “professional” scientists while ignoring community-based researchers entirely. It falls short of defining what a Digital Researcher is by claiming that Digital Researchers are only part of the scientific community, i.e. academia. It ignores anyone contributing to knowledge mobilization (not part of the formal scientific community) doing research using the expanse of social media tools inherent in the work of a Digital Researcher.

My work as a Digital Researcher is inclusive of all types of  knowledge mobilization – within science disciplines as well as within communities across the Internet (whether global, local, or global-local). Perhaps a formal definition of a Digital Researcher is required. Could I possibly be the first person to attempt to define Digital Researcher for the Web 2.0 generation? Here goes…

Definition of Digital Researcher: A person, who systematically investigates, collects and analyzes knowledge within social media, using digital technology that generates, stores, and processes data. The digital researcher then uses social media and digital technology to mobilize the knowledge acquired by the research.

At least it’s a start to defining the field. I thought you could find just about everything on Google? Guess I was wrong. (Oh, and feel free to quote me on this when you include it in Wikipedia!).

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2 responses to “Defining the Digital Researcher

  1. Ddavid Phipps April 7, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I wonder how digital researchers will be poised to take advantage of we 3.0 (the semantic web) when it emerges? https://www.hypios.com/thinking/2010/03/08/waiting-for-the-social-semantic-web/

    • KMbkteam June 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm

      I think the semantic web is still at a distance from now, but as each of us – digital researchers included – contribute to building up networks and linking knowledge connections, web 3.0 will get closer to becoming a reality. Thanks for the informative link. I hope others enjoy it as much as I did. Also, thanks for your comment.

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