Faculty Research Salon

On March 28, two dozen George Washington University faculty gathered over lunch to discuss social media research. The main question was “What are the possibilities for research using social media data?” The event, part of a series of Faculty Research Salons, was co-sponsored by GW Libraries and the Office of the Vice President for Research’s Research Enhancement Unit. Since the event proved to be quite successful and could easily be replicated at other institutions, I’m sharing it here.

The outline of the event was:

  • Welcome
  • Remarks by faculty moderators (around 5 minutes each). Dr. Howie Huang, Dr. Kim Gross, and Dr. David Bronatowski were selected as our moderators to represent the diversity of social media research at GW.
  • Overview of Social Feed Manager and social media research support provided by GW Libraries
  • Grant opportunities compiled by the Research Enhancement Unit. (Faculty ears perked up at the grant opportunities.)
  • Quick introductions by attendees
  • Discussion and lunch. Lunch was a crucial part of the event and we appreciated the Research Enhancement Unit providing lunch and coffee.

Laura presenting on SFM

We had thought we might need to encourage conversation with questions for the discussion section, so we prepared some in advance:

  • What research do you do with social media data?
  • Are there challenges in social media research?
  • What ideas for research do you have with social media data?
  • What tools or techniques do you use for your research?
  • What sort of social media datasets do you wish you had access to?
  • At GW, what should we do to foster on-going collaboration / community around social media research?

However, as it turned out, the moderators had already provided fodder for rich conversations.

From our experience helping faculty and students with research on social media using Social Feed Manager, we knew that this was a topic sure to draw from a wide range of disciplines. We’ve worked with people from at least 15 campus units since we began engaging in this work in 2012. Social media seems particularly fruitful as an area for research support by libraries because of its applicability to study in so many fields. We reached out in advance to faculty we knew, and were pleasantly surprised to see interest in the salon from faculty new to us.

Representation included faculty from the following GW departments:

  • Center for Cyber & Homeland Security
  • Corcoran School of Art & Design
  • Counseling & Human Development, Graduate School of Education & Human Development
  • Electrical & Computer Engineering, School of Engineering & Applied Science
  • Engineering Management & Systems Engineering, School of Engineering & Applied Science
  • Fine Arts & Art History, Columbian College of Arts & Sciences
  • Geography, Columbian College of Arts & Sciences
  • Information Systems & Technology Management, School of Business
  • Political Management, College of Professional Studies
  • School of Media & Public Affairs
  • School of Nursing
  • Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public Administration
  • Women’s Studies, Columbian College of Arts & Sciences

Attendees ranged from those interested in learning about the potential of social media to researchers experienced in working with social media data. Judging by the number of times I overheard “aha” and “we need to talk” during the discussion, the event set the stage for future collaboration.