Study reveals social-media behaviour of young researchers

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JISC and the British Library have released the results of a major study into the behavioural habits of so-called ‘Generation Y’ PhD students.

The final year of the Researchers of Tomorrow project found that, over the three years of the study, there has been only a gradual increase in use of the social web and social media by young researchers, a potentially surprising find considering the increasingly-digitised wider culture.

The study found that 23 per cent of all the students have used an online forum passively but only 13 per cent have taken an active part in any discussions. Similarly, 23 per cent followed blogs, but only 9 per cent maintained a blog themselves. Active take-up of institutionally-provided open web resources is also low, with students requesting more information about technologies and applications such as Google Scholar, cloud computing, EndNote and Mendeley.

The report also found a continuing lack of understanding about the nature of open access. Generation Y students who responded felt that putting their own work out openly would bring them no positive benefits, and may even have a negative impact. Doctoral students also perceived the intellectual property and copyright environment as a source of confusion.

Another finding was a marked dependency on published secondary sources rather than primary sources as the basis of students’ own original research. These sources include archival materials and data sets. This trend, which was regardless of discipline, shows a significant change in the nature of doctoral research from only a decade ago.

The Researchers of Tomorrow project spoke to 17,000 doctoral students over the course of its three-year longitudinal study to set a benchmark for the research behaviour of so-called Generation Y students born between 1983-1992.