The Personal Research Portal

The Personal Research Portal

Ismael Peña-López (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-208-4.ch026
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Abstract

The author of this chapter proposes the concept of the Personal Research Portal (PRP) – a mesh of social software applications to manage knowledge acquisition and diffusion – as a means to create a digital identity for the researcher, an online public notebook and personal repository, and a virtual network of colleagues working in the same field. Complementary to formal publishing or taking part in events, and based on the concept of the e-portfolio, the PRP is a knowledge management system that enhances reading, storing and creating at both the private and public levels. Relying heavily on Web 2.0 applications easy to use, freely available – the PRP automatically implies a public exposure and a digital presence that enables conversations and network weaving without time and space boundaries.
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Abstract

The author of this chapter proposes the concept of the Personal Research Portal (PRP) – a mesh of social software applications to manage knowledge acquisition and diffusion – as a means to create a digital identity for the researcher, an online public notebook and personal repository, and a virtual network of colleagues working in the same field. Complementary to formal publishing or taking part in events, and based on the concept of the e-portfolio, the PRP is a knowledge management system that enhances reading, storing and creating at both the private and public levels. Relying heavily on Web 2.0 applications – easy to use, freely available – the PRP automatically implies a public exposure and a digital presence that enables conversations and network weaving without time and space boundaries.

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Introduction

In a Knowledge Society, the main problem knowledge workersa have is invisibility: if people don’t know that you know, and people are not aware of what you know, you are not. In a Network Society, the main problem that nodes have is being kicked off the network: you are worth what you contribute, if you don’t contribute, you are not worth a dime.

Digital technologies have forever changed the way knowledge is disseminated and accessed, in at least two crucial ways. First, diffusion procedures (publishing, broadcasting, etc.) have been getting infinitely easier and cheaper for those digitally initiated (the ‘digerati’), but still remain surprisingly arcane for the ones on the dark side of the digital divide, less digitally literate and, thus, less prone to benefit from all the advantages of ‘online casting’. Second, intellectual property rights – and their trade – have seen their basements dynamited by the fact that a digital copy has certain characteristics of a public good insofar as it is a copy and as such can be duplicated and disseminated. Under this approach, the tension between ‘coffee for all’ and private property has caused an increasing strengthening of copyrights with a parallel adoption of new licenses aimed for the maximum spreading and sharing of content.

In view of this scenario, researchers, scholars and civil society organizations from developed and developing countriesb, are pressing governments and institutions to foster Open Access (OA) for their documentation: this means that documents are ‘digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions’ (Suber 2005a). OA can be considered a way to achieve universal reach of research diffusion at inexpensive and immediate levelsc. Most OA efforts have been aimed at the institutional level, devoting little energy to what the individual can do to contribute to this goal. Even though there are some valid reasons for this imbalance, there is ample opportunity for the individual to make a difference.

The philosophy and tools around the web 2.0 seem to bring clear opportunities so that these people, acting as individuals, can also contribute, to build a broader personal presence on the Internet and a better diffusion for their work, interests or publications. A Personal Research Portal, fostered and built individually, with the help of Web 2.0 applications and services, helps bringing into the spotlight underrepresented researchers and subjects, such as researchers from developing countries, junior experts or vanguard disciplines and topics not yet into the mainstream scholarly landscape and academic publishing systems. Indeed, the nature of ICTs – and the Internet in particular – do open a new landscape for knowledge exchange not necessarily mediated alone by institutions.

This paper aims to explore how individuals can contribute to the diffusion of research in the OA paradigm by means of social software and web 2.0 technologies. The example of the Personal Research Portal – a concept more than an artifact – can contribute to making knowledge more accessible to other researchers, but also provides a model by which international research networks might be fostered. In detail, the paper analyzes how the PRP can contribute to creating an ‘online identity’, how this identity can help to create a network and how digital publishing is the currency of this network.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Web/Remote vs. Local Technologies: Web 2.0 applications are, by definition, hosted in web servers (i.e. not in a desktop) that are remotely accessed through a web browser. This usually implies permanent connection to the Internet. Nevertheless, some of these applications can be used locally (i.e. in a desktop or laptop) by replicating the installed setup of a web server (this is what XAMPP does – see note vii). This allows content being accessible without an Internet connection and, in some cases, to synchronized it with the remote database once the connection is re-established

Open Science and Open Research: often treated as synonyms, Open Science is a movement that promotes open access to content by digital means, the use of free software / open source applications to conduct research and the free availability of data sets (open data) used in this research. Besides philosophical considerations, many authors have stated evidence of better performance and more benefits for researchers being ‘open’. The PRP is fully in line with this way of thinking, as it promotes maximum transparency and sharing

Blogroll: Is the list of blogs that a blogger usually reads or specially likes. A dynamic list – as tastes and subjects change along time – it can be understood as an explicit representation of one’s personal network of colleagues (reciprocal or not) and interests.

Comments: in this chapter, with comments we refer to the feature that some blogs and news sites have to write your reflections on a piece of content. In formal frameworks, these comments are usually signed and include a link to the commenter’s web site. In the blogosphere, post-to-post and comment-to-post are rich ways in which exchange of ideas and debate take place

E-Awareness: a part of digital literacy, we think of e-awareness as the most conceptual and strategic of digital skills. It can be defined as the ability to understand the real impact of the changes brought by the Information Society in one’s context. At another level, e-Awareness would also imply foreseeing and anticipating such changes, either to avoid or smooth their impact, or to benefit from them by adapting one’s behaviour

Feed Readers: are applications that, from a user’s point of view, work in very similar ways as e-mail readers do. They ‘ask’ a (subscribed) web site for new content and display it to the user if new content is found. The main benefit is that the user needs not browsing each and every web site and guess what the new content is

RSS: usually based in XML technologies (though not only), an RSS feed is a content format that, among other things, tells machines – not humans – when a website was updated and what the new content is

Linkbacks, Pingbacks, Trackbacks and Refbacks: Linkbacks (general term for three methods: pingbacks, trackbacks and refbacks) help website owners to be aware of who has linked to their site. In our case, these methods are relevant to engage in the ‘conversation’ and discover people interested in the subjects dealt with in a PRP

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