Social Media and Research Administration

Last week, your humble scribes were presenters at NCURA’s annual Regional Meeting in Gettysburg, PA, speaking on the emergence of Social Media in Research Administration and our experiences in setting up our various platforms.  Given the positive response, as well as the questions received concerning how exactly to go about setting up Social Media accounts, we thought it might be beneficial to our readership at large to also learn a bit more about our efforts and where we plan to go.  So, for the next few weeks, we will be featuring “Social Media Monday,” where we break down our own Social Media techniques and how it can apply to your institution. For us, Social Media will only be successful as more and more institutions embrace it, and thus we want to share our processes and encourage you to start your own.



Almost exactly a year ago, a small group was formed within ORA to discuss ways to better communicate with our PIs and departments.  From our initial meetings came the idea to create a Social Media platform for the office that would provide information through simple, easily-accessible means, and we began to investigate the myriad avenues available to us.  As we reviewed and contemplated each potential outlet, it also dawned on us that these same Social Media tools could further be used to reach out to Research Administration offices throughout the country.

Thinking we were late to the party, we spent hours scouring the internet for ideas that we could “borrow” from other institutions as the framework for our new endeavors.  However, the more we looked, the more we realized that few Universities were utilizing Social Media, and we were incredulous that a community at the forefront of research and development was giving the cold shoulder to such effectual informational conduits.  You can’t deny that every person in your office has at least a Facebook account, so why not capitalize on free publicity that doesn’t require super-human computer skills?

Consequently, with very little from which to draw, we jumped in and took on Social Media head-on, tackling a Blog, Facebook and Twitter all at once.  After all, go big or go home.



Our first foray into Social Media platforms was the creation of this blog, which we chose for a couple of reasons: We wanted to create one-stop shopping for answers to commonly received questions, and we wanted to be able to make large amounts of information available to people outside of Hopkins.  When we started BloggingORA last August, we focused primarily on how it would look and what it was going to include.

With respect to the former, our options were generally limited to the constraints of what WordPress had to offer, but we did our best to create a clean, streamlined look that would make reading easy.  Regarding the latter, every question we hear becomes a potential blog post, and, with proper tagging, anyone can simply keyword relevant articles to get instant background from previous entries.

Making a blog attractive as our first Social Media effort were the statistics and control that Facebook could not provide with respect to our footprint.  We wanted to see how many hits we had, how many RSS Feed subscribers, where people were coming from and what they were reading.  Creepy?  Probably a little.  But if we were committed to giving our potential audience what they want, we needed to target our blog posts to what they found most interesting and the topic areas that sparked high readership metrics.

Our inspiration for BloggingORA came predominantly from Sally Rockey’s Blog “Rock Talk.”  As NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, Sally’s blog is clean, helpful, and straight-forward.  More importantly, it wasn’t just a data dump site for policies, as what she offers is new information, questions and discussion.  We were hooked immediately, and decided to tailor the scope of our own blog accordingly.  Posting about issues that were popping up in our departments meant that we could give people detailed information about issues and relevant topics both real-time and as reference points.

That being said, moving into BloggingORA was not a perfect transition.  Like any project, it had some hidden pit falls.  We were so excited about our social media escapades that we wanted to write every day!  Unfortunately, that’s just not conducive to working in an office with a crazy volume. So, we got on a schedule, allowed ourselves some fun with Sheldon’s Friday posts and are continuing to branch out and contemplate ways to broaden the scope and effectiveness of our blog.

As our baby hits its nine-month birthday, we’ve seen a significant and consistent rise in daily pageviews, and have attracted subscribers from across the country.  Additionally, we are in the early stages of our Guest Blogger program, where research administration personnel both from JHU and the university community at large will touch on subjects of particular importance and explain how their impact on everyone’s activities.  However, even with these developments, we continue to strive to make our blog as effective as possible, and welcome comments and suggestions at every turn.