One of my life goals is to have a job title that is so clear that when I meet people at a cocktail party and tell them what I do, they will instantly understand. My jobs have always had confusing titles that need considerable explanation. I envy dentists, kindergarten teachers, and electricians because people can immediately visualize them doing their work. And yet, here I go again, changing careers to something that I don’t quite know how to describe, and no one seems to clearly understand.
This fall I met a woman at a party and tried to explain the kind of work I envision doing next. I used the phrase “copywriting” (you know, the work of writing text for marketing purposes), and she politely noted that there was probably a lot of work to do in the field of registering patents and trademarks. Deflated, I didn’t bother to correct her. However, several weeks later I met her again, and she once again asked me what I was going to be doing when I graduate. Apparently, this time I was more successful in describing my future plans. As I talked about social media, she got more and more excited. As it turns out, she is a researcher. She became very animated talking about the potential for an expert in social media to help researchers with something called “knowledge mobilization”.
Knowledge mobilization (KMb) is the phrase that describes the work involved in taking academic research and putting it into the hands of others so that they can take appropriate actions. Often it means simplifying the research results so that they are easy to understand. Lately, social media has been identified as a potential tool for KMb work; what better way to connect researchers with other researchers, policy makers, or even the public?
Here is an example of how good social media practices and KMb practices can work together. Using Google Trends, I discovered that one of the most searched words in Manitoba is “myocarditis”. (Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and is a possible side effect of the COVID-19 vaccines, particularly in young men). Concerns about myocarditis might explain the vaccine hesitancy in the southern part of our province. Next, thanks to Google Alerts, I became aware of an on-line magazine article, which then led me to a recently published academic article; that article reported the researchers’ finding that the prevalence of myocarditis is much higher if you get a case of COVID-19 than if you get the vaccine. Based on this research, I put together the following post for my hospital; across our platforms it has reached 637 people so far, most or all of whom would never have reviewed the original research. This is KMb in action.
There is increasing pressure on researchers to include their KMb strategies in their grant proposals, simply because granting agencies want to know that the research they’ve funded will really benefit society. There are many strategies the researchers can use, such as presenting at conferences, writing magazine articles, giving newspaper interviews, and even writing plays and stories. There seems to be a consensus that social media would be a really great way to share the information, but having spent two days reviewing the literature, there is very little information available on how to actually do it. Most researchers would not have access to the skills we have learned in this course.
Accordingly, my now-friend, the researcher, and I have started developing a proposal that can be sent to other researchers to demonstrate the types of solutions that I could provide to them. Whether it is the development of a social media kit that can be circulated to partner organizations, a simple website, or a full-fledged social media program, having a consultant that knows the ropes should help these researchers to be more effective in their reach, and more efficient with their scarce resources.
While the idea is still in its infancy, and may never become a huge income stream, I am excited about it as interesting and important work. In an environment where we talk so much about the negative aspects of social media, I find it very exciting to use social media as a method for sharing very valuable, reliable information and helping users to make more informed choices.
Only one problem remains. What should we call a person who uses social media to assist with knowledge mobilization? All suitable suggestions will be welcome!