Opening Science

pp 107-124

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.


Academia Goes Facebook? The Potential of Social Network Sites in the Scholarly Realm

  • Michael NentwichAffiliated withInstitute of Technology Assessment, Austrian Academy of Sciences Email author 
  • , René KönigAffiliated withInstitute of Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology


Social network sites (SNS) have not only become a fundamental part of the Web, but also increasingly offer novel communicative and networking possibilities for academia. Following a short presentation of the typical functions of (science-specific) SNS, we firstly present the state of knowledge regarding academic usage practices, both in general purpose SNS and in science-specific SNS. Secondly, we assess potential impacts by addressing identified key issues such as privacy, the role of pseudonymity, and the specific form of informal communication in question. In particular, we focus on the issue of network effects and the challenge of multiple channels, which presents itself as a major hurdle for an effective implementation of SNS in academia. Despite these difficulties, we come to the conclusion that SNS are, in principle, functional for scholarly communication and that they have serious potential within academia.