“Will not use them. Cannot use them. Web 2 what?” Why aren’t web 2.0 tools being used more for research collaboration?
November 1, 2011 4 Comments
GDNet study explores the barriers to adoption of web 2.0 tools for research collaboration in developing countries
By Cheryl Brown
Blogs, wikis, social networking sites and other web 2.0 tools have enormous potential to facilitate collaboration. But to what extent are researchers actually using them to support networking, working with and exchanging knowledge with other researchers online? And how can we explain why some researchers adopt these tools and others do not?
Adoption of web 2.0 by academics in the UK and US has received some attention in recent years, (e.g. funded by the Research Information Network) and even in these countries, adoption is limited. GDNet wanted to establish if the picture was the same in developing countries and get ideas for what it could do to encourage more researchers to use web 2.0 tools for research collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
A study of secondary sources, including GDNet survey data, was commissioned by GDNet to explore the adoption of web 2.0 tools for research collaboration by researchers in developing countries and the reasons for lack of use. The study also looked to see if there are any regional or gender differences and reviewed existing (and failed) online communities for academics to identify any lessons to be learnt.
What did the study find?
These reasons fall into three broad categories:
- Researchers do not know the tools exist
- Researchers are not able to use them
- Researchers choose not to use them
The study identifies numerous specific barriers, which individually or in combination, can thwart ambitions to encourage use of web 2.0 tools, including: poor infrastructure or lack of equipment, usability, time, perceived value or credibility of tools, and lack of institutional incentives.
Does this mean encouraging use of web 2.0 tools among researchers is a lost cause? The study discusses a number of theories and models that can help us to understand adoption of technology better, and use this understanding to make adoption more attractive and easier.
Based on this analysis, the study makes a number of recommendations for GDNet, which may be of interest to research institutes and others working in the research communication and intermediary sectors, including:
- Approach the development of any new academic online community or provision of web 2.0 tools for research collaboration with caution and with realistic expectations
- Make use of opinion leaders among the academic community
- Focus on ease of use and providing excellent support
- Find out what degree of privacy, vetting of profiles and moderation researchers require
- Work at an institutional level to encourage adoption
A dedicated webpage has been created on the GDNet website providing links to some of the key publications referenced in the study and the study can be downloaded here. GDNet would like to know your views on the findings and conclusions of this study and particularly:
- How present are these barriers in your experience?
- What strategies have you found most successful in encouraging adoption of web 2.0 tools among researchers?
- Are there any sources of information (perhaps not yet available online) that can help increase understanding around this topic?