Social media guidelines (research staff)
This guidance is aimed at research staff and students using social media in a professional context, while representing the University of Glasgow.
Social media provides a powerful means to improve the visibility of your research and to interact with peers, collaborators and stakeholders.
Social media channels may include professional or personal blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and a broad range of professional networking sites, including LinkedIn and ResearchGate.
The University encourages members of its research community to engage responsibly and professionally with social media. However, as the barriers between personal and professional use of social media can be poorly defined, it is important to consider how your activity reflects on both your professional research integrity and the reputation of the University of Glasgow. The following guidance aims to empower rather than discourage.
The standards of behaviour expected when publishing research via traditional means also apply when communicating online. Guidance on the best standards for publishing research can be found in the Code for Good Practice in Research. Failure to follow good practice (e.g. misappropriation of authorship credit, publishing data without authorisation) may make you liable to allegations of research misconduct.
Good practice for all types of social media
The keys to success in social media are being honest about who you are, being thoughtful before you post, and respecting the purpose of the community where you are posting.
- Be authentic and transparent: Be honest about your identity. Never hide your status to promote the University through social media. When voicing your opinion in the public domain on University matters, please ensure that you include a statement declaring that these are your personal opinions, e.g. "The views expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Glasgow."
If you associate yourself with an institution or funder in your Twitter bio, you must reflect that your comments carry some weight. Speak within your expertise (see guidance from professional bodies below). Consider adding ‘Own tweets’ or ‘Tweets my own’ to your Twitter bio.
Some professions require you to disclose your name, e.g. The General Medical Council (GMC) states that if you identify yourself as a doctor online it is best practice, but not mandatory, to also give your name. For the GMC, identifying yourself as a doctor when discussing health and healthcare issues (as opposed to other topics) gives weight and credibility to your views. They may also be taken to represent those of the profession more widely. Ultimately though, it is a matter for your own judgement.
- Be accurate: Make sure that you have all the facts before you post. It's better to verify information with a source first than to have to post a correction or retraction later. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly. This will earn you respect in the online community.
- Consider your audience: Social media often span traditional boundaries between professional and personal relationships. Use privacy settings to restrict personal information. Choose profile photos and avatars carefully. Be thoughtful about the type of content you publish — would you be happy if you saw it attributed to yourself at a later date?
- Respect copyrights and fair use: Always attribute content you have replicated, or ensure you have the rights to use it.
- Consider data protection issues: Don’t release personal information or images of other people without their consent. Protect confidential and proprietary info. Do not post sensitive or proprietary information about the University, your students or your fellow employees. For more information, see Data Protection & Ethics.
- Think about sensitive or potentially controversial research: Consider how it could be misinterpreted, and if addressing the public on such areas, take advice from the Communications & Public Affairs Office.
When discussing animal research, speak to your local Home Office Licence manager before posting images of animal housing. The University has a policy of openness in animal research.
- Think about your intellectual property and commercially sensitive information: Ensure you do not disclose proprietary information about your research or that of a third party without their permission. Take advice from your College Business Development Manager, University’s Contracts Team or University IP Manager if you are concerned about discussing commercially sensitive information or contracts.
Relevant University policies
- Code of Good Practice in Research
- University guidance on research integrity
- Data protection policy
- University guidance and policy on plagiarism
- University guidance on self-plagiarism or text recycling
- University Brand Guidelines (guidance for social media: Official University channels)
- Guidelines for Electronic Publishing
Freedom of Information requests
You may, as a researcher, be contacted via social media with a Freedom of Information request. You should not ignore these. The following information will guide you towards the correct course of action. Handling Freedom of Information requests
Social media guidelines issued by professional bodies
In addition to the University guidelines, researchers should be aware of their professional responsibilities:
- Royal College of Nursing
- Nursing and Midwifery Council
- Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – Social media and online networking forums
- General Teaching Council for Scotland – Professional Guidance on the Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media (PDF)
- Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) – Using social media (PDF)