Original Research

The adoption of professional social networks by researchers at South African public universities

Kambale V. Muhongya, Manoj S. Maharaj
South African Journal of Information Management | Vol 24, No 1 | a1542 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v24i1.1542 | © 2022 Kambale V. Muhongya, Manoj S. Maharaj | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 March 2022 | Published: 20 October 2022

About the author(s)

Kambale V. Muhongya, Department of Information Systems and Technology, Faculty of Management, IT and Governance, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; and, Department of Information Technology, National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Parktown, South Africa
Manoj S. Maharaj, Department of Information Systems and Technology, Faculty of Management, IT and Governance, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Professional social networks (PSNs) have changed the research landscape by influencing how different communities of scholars engage within the community. Whilst there has been much research on this topic focusing on students and large public communities, perceptions around PSNs by scholars remain largely uncertain.

Objectives: This study determines the degree to which academic staff engage with PSNs at different public universities in South Africa.

Methods: The study adopted a quantitative approach using an online survey that was completed by 950 academic and research scholars at 17 public universities in South Africa. Additional support was provided with a qualitative approach using 10 semistructured interviews.

Results: Scholars at South African public universities have adopted traditional, generic and PSNs to disseminate publications, enhance online visibility and collaborate with peers both nationally and globally. Scholars’ disinclination to use PSNs was associated with plagiarism, copyright, commercialisation of content, privacy, security challenges, issues related to the design, government and organisational challenges. Furthermore, there were no official policies, guidance from institutions, support from governments or professional social networking services.

Conclusion: Scholars have adopted PSNs but do not use these online systems extensively. This is attributed to a lack of support from various stakeholders, missing policies and system misalignments, resulting in reduced research productivity. University leadership should be guided by this study and introduce active measures to encourage collaboration and dissemination of research outputs.


Keywords

social networking sites; academic social networks; types of social networks; collaboration; information sharing; research production; diffusion of professional social networks; South African universities

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