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Tag Archives: ResearchImpact

A Career in Knowledge Mobilization

Translating Knowledge Across Sectors featuring David Phipps and Krista Jensen from ResearchImpact at York University, Toronto.

Making Knowledge Mobilization Connections Using Social Media – The Old Spice Way

Facebook and Twitter have become such familiar words globally. When social media nouns like Facebook and Twitter become verbs as quickly as Google did (“Did you Google him?”  or “I’ll Facebook you” or “I’ll Twitter you“) we need to sit up and pay attention – especially with using these tools for greater knowledge mobilization.

Recently, we’ve all seen a greater number of marketers taking advantage of the popularity of social media to sell products quite successfully. The popularity of the recent Old Spice campaign has infused new life into an outdated product that many aptly considered only for Old Men! Some may find these ads annoying, some may find them savvy, and some may even find them sexy and distracting. But it shows that using a social media strategy seriously can create a far-reaching tool to spread knowledge about a product.

So why aren’t more knowledge brokers using a social media strategy to create a far-reaching tool to mobilize knowledge? (Yet another verb!). Isn’t knowledge that contributes to better social policy and decision making just as (or even more) important as selling products? Yet, it surprises me whenever I ask colleagues in the academic or KMb world if they have a Facebook or Twitter account and they say “no’! Perhaps because some think that such social media tools are only for marketers or for friends & family contacts.

One example of a successful KMb social media strategy comes from ResearchImpact’s Mobilize This! and their Twitter feed which helps translate research into clear language while also being informed by KMb from the social media community.

I’m sure if you’re reading this blog you’re probably already making knowledge mobilization connections using social media. If by chance you’ve somehow managed to stumble across this blog and you’re not using social media to mobilize knowledge what are you waiting for?

If you’re not making knowledge mobilization connections using social media, you’re like the old man who uses old spice only because of an old way of limited and old-style thinking. Perhaps it’s time to splash on some new KMb cologne and attract some greater social media attention.

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!).

A fork in the road

KMb (Knowledge Mobilization)


I spoke with my  husband about how happy I am to have finally found a professional identity that seems to fit with my life experience, skills and interests – being a Digital Researcher, specifically studying knowledge mobilization (KMb) in social media.  Better late than never – as they say!

My 46-year path in life (thus far) has been rather varied – to say the least. In my early 20s I began a career as a broadcast journalist, but (either divinely-inspired or suffering from delusions) I left the newsroom and spent 6 years studying philosophy and theology to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest. I finally decided to leave for three reasons: the lack of equality in not ordaining women; the denial of basic human sexuality through forced celibacy; and the church’s views on same-sex sexuality.

After leaving the church, I became a flight attendant by fluke! I was sent back “into the world” looking for a job.

I got hired as an F/A, planned to do it only for a few months until I could find another broadcast journalist job, but the Internet revolution of the 90s had taken hold. The newsroom was now a changed and foreign place for me and I’d have to bring myself up to speed. In the meantime, flying around the world wasn’t such a bad thing. Now 20 years later, I’m a senior flight attendant and have plenty of downtime to do research between flights – thanks to the power of a portable laptop and web 2.0 technology.

Seven years ago, I decided to return to university to study something closely connected to my interests as a broadcast journalist – observing human behaviour – this time, in Psychology.  As a student, I was given a great opportunity to volunteer as a research assistant in a Health Psychology Lab run by Dr. Trevor Hart, where I was able to hone my research skills and put my statistics studies to practical use.  I graduated from York University‘s Department of Psychology in 2008.

It was through personal conversations with my husband about knowledge mobilization that sparked my own interests in the variety of methods in which research and knowledge is exchanged, co-produced and practically applied between researchers and research-users. In fact, before graduating, one of my own research projects focused on the extent to which York University’s Department of Psychology embodied KMb. From that, I began to provide volunteer support for Knowledge Mobilization at York since 2007 around key areas of data analysis for various ResearchImpact projects.

I’ve experienced a few “forks in the road” and travelled down a path that has lead me to KMb as a Digital Researcher. The years of varied experience down all the different roads has had one thing in common; my interest in asking why? I think I’ve finally found a fork in the road where I can do that with a more fulfilling purpose.  Perhaps I took the road more travelled instead!