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D-Lib Magazine
July/August 2008

Volume 14 Number 7/8

ISSN 1082-9873

Researcher Profiles and Portfolios

Use Cases of the Facebook Service and the University of Queensland Researchers Service


Belinda Weaver
Manager, UQ eSpace (The institutional digital repository of The University of Queensland)

Red Line



The University of Queensland (UQ) maintains an online research profiling system, UQ Researchers,1 to showcase the expertise of its academic staff and postgraduate students. The site makes available detailed research profiles and evidence of expertise at various levels. It incorporates school, institute and centre research profiles, CV-type profiles for individual researchers, research project and publication details, and details of available research facilities. External users can search for topical areas and seek opportunities for research collaboration. The service is often used internationally by aspiring research higher degree students who are seeking to identify institutions or individual academics with research strength in their chosen area of study. The UQ Researchers site provides access not only to the expertise and experience of individual researchers but also to that of research groups across the University. Participation in the service is currently optional. There is no mandate for inclusion.

UQ Researchers offers direct data entry, as well as a data sourcing system that automatically collects information about academics and students, and their research, from UQ sources and provides it for use. Users are also welcome to add further, relevant information such as details of non-refereed publications, the collection of which is not currently done by UQ data sources.

The take up of the UQ Researchers service, however, is patchy. Not all staff participate in the service, and postgraduate student take up is extremely low. This has been attributed to a number of causes, such as lack of time, lack of currency of the information provided, and reluctance on the part of staff to do direct data entry into the system. On the other hand, some staff and students were more than willing to spend time showcasing themselves and their work via social networking sites like MySpace2 and Facebook.3 Accordingly, it was decided to compare the functionality of a social networking service with that of UQ Researchers to identify any gaps in the UQ research profiling service and to arrive at some recommendations for improving it.


A number of popular social networking sites were considered as possible benchmarks for functionality comparison with the UQ Researchers academic profile and portfolio service. Services considered for comparison included MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn.4 One researcher interviewed for the study recommended LinkedIn as superior to Facebook for professional/research purposes, since it is more focused on professional networking and focuses less on purely social links. However, in the end Facebook was selected as the best tool for comparison. There were a number of reasons for this decision, but a major factor was the existence of several already active groups of Facebook users at UQ.

During December 2007, face-to-face interviews were conducted with five users – four academic staff and one research student – all of whom answered a short questionnaire about their use of both the Facebook service and UQ Researchers.

Questions asked of interviewees:
Why did you go on to Facebook?
Invited by a friend
It met a personal need for:
      Social networking with new people
      Contact/staying in touch with existing contacts
Do you use it
Every day
Once a week
Once a month
What do you mainly use it for?
Group communication
Making new contacts
Staying in touch with existing contacts
Do you use it for academic/research purposes?
Do you have a UQ Researchers profile?
Are they linked?
Do you list your research publications on Facebook?
What Facebook features do you like best and use most often?
Posted Items
Conference call
The Wall
What Facebook features do you never use?
Posted Items
Conference call
The Wall
What other applications have you integrated into Facebook, e.g., Twitter, Blogs, RSS feeds?

Telephone calls and Facebook tools such as email and user status were also used to communicate with users. In addition to seeking feedback from existing users, we created two new Facebook profiles for staff, as well as one new UQ Researchers profile, to enable us to fully document the process of registering and populating both services. We also wanted to test and compare the respective features, interface design and 'user-friendliness' of both systems.

Description of the Two Web Sites: Facebook and UQ Researchers


Facebook is a Web-based social networking application that connects people with others who work, study or live near them. People use Facebook in a number of different ways, including:

  • To stay in touch with friends and colleagues
  • To upload and share photographs
  • To share Web links and videos
  • To build networks of people based on common interests or backgrounds.

Anyone with a valid email address can join Facebook and create a profile. Profiles may be of an individual or of a group. Many networks and groups already exist on the service, such as the network of staff and students at The University of Queensland, many of whom are organised into discrete groups, for example researchers, academics and students in linguistics. Other Facebook networks include those based around companies, regions, or educational institutions such as colleges, schools or universities. Facebook offers a configurable platform to allow users to integrate into their profiles a very wide range of internal and external applications. These include calendars, notes, conference calls, RSS feeds and other forms of social networking. Facebook users can only see the profiles of confirmed 'friends' and the people in their networks. Who gets to see what of a person's Facebook profile is determined by the way a person configures his or her privacy settings.

UQ Researchers

UQ Researchers is a Web-based profile and portfolio tool for showcasing UQ researchers and their combined expertise. Its aims are:

  • To promote The University of Queensland's research activity to a global audience
  • To demonstrate innovation and cross-disciplinary links within the University's research programs
  • To facilitate the identification and contact of individual(s) and/or groups of UQ researchers who have expertise in a specific field.

The UQ Researchers site makes available detailed research profiles and evidence of expertise at various levels. It incorporates:

  • School and centre research profiles
  • CV-type profiles for individual researchers
  • Research project and publication details
  • Details of available research facilities.

UQ Researchers allows current UQ academic staff and research higher degree students to put their research on display through a system that automatically collects information from UQ sources such as the grants system, the Federal government research reporting system, the human resources system and so on. Users are also able to add their own data to the system, e.g., to include non-refereed publications.

To contribute, users must register. Registration is limited to current UQ academic staff and research higher degree students. Undergraduates or general staff are not allowed to contribute.

The Interviewees

To prepare for the comparison of UQ Researchers and Facebook, new Facebook profiles were set up for two participants, one academic, one general staff:

  1. Hubert Chanson, Professor of Civil Engineering
    UQ Researchers profile
  2. Belinda Weaver (Manager, UQ eSpace repository, general staff member, and thus ineligible to use UQ Researchers to showcase publications)

In addition to the two new Facebook users listed above, four other interviewees were already Facebook users, two of which also have profiles on UQ Researchers. These four interviewees are:

  1. Stephen Viller, Lecturer, School of ITEE
    UQ Researchers profile
  2. Mark Schulz (Senior Lecturer, Teaching and Educational Development Institute, UQ)
    UQ Researchers profile
  3. Peter White (Lecturer, School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies)
  4. Laura Tolton, PhD candidate, School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies. (Although eligible to have a profile on UQ Researchers, she found UQ Researchers profile too cumbersome, so she never completed it.)

Screenshots of the three UQ Researchers users' profiles appear in the Appendix to this article.

All interviewees had publications listed in the UQ eSpace repository. Some had publications listed in UQ Researchers. The UQ Researchers listing was problematical as it relied on data being fed into it from other UQ systems, and thus the data were always at least a year out of date. The lack of any publications with a publication date later than 2006 made UQ Researchers unattractive as a publications showcase. The ability to use, within Facebook, an RSS feed of publications deposited in UQ eSpace appealed to interviewees. The UQ eSpace data was much more up to date than the data on UQ Researchers, and any missing publications could be easily added, thus updating the feed. The feed could also be customised in various ways, such as by most recent or by research output type (e.g., journal articles only). Supplying the UQ eSpace RSS feed URL to interviewees meant that two of them were able to add this functionality easily to their Facebook profiles.

Who is displaying publications, and by what means are the publications displayed?

The following interviewees make available information about their publications and the list reflects how they do that:

Hubert Chanson

  • Via RSS feed added to Facebook (lists all publications in descending order by date)
  • Via publications list on UQ Researchers (though this lists only pre-2007 DEST-reportable publications)
  • Via UQ eSpace RSS feed (lists all publications, even forthcoming in 2008 items)
  • Via personal web site (all publications and links to external sites e.g., video archive)

Stephen Viller

  • Via RSS feed added to Facebook
  • Via publications list on UQ Researchers (though this lists only pre-2007 DEST-reportable publications)
  • Via UQ eSpace RSS feed

Mark Schulz

  • Via publications list on UQ Researchers (lists 5 items only)
  • Via UQ eSpace RSS feed (all deposited items)

Laura Tolton

  • Via UQ eSpace RSS feed

Peter White

  • Via UQ eSpace RSS feed

Belinda Weaver

  • Via RSS feed added to Facebook
  • Via UQ eSpace RSS feed

Feed or update functionality

When it displays a user's RSS feed, Facebook offers the option of easily subscribing to the feed through an RSS Reader application. Users have a choice of what RSS application they use. If they already use a feed reader, the new feed will be added to that application.

UQ Researchers makes the process of subscribing to a profile quite difficult, requiring a number of steps, including a multi-box registration form. The information is not supplied as an RSS feed but as an email notification service.

Feature/functionality comparison of UQ Researchers (UQR) with Facebook (FB)


Feature / functionality UQR Comments  FB  Comments
Photograph Yes Restricted to single photograph
imported from other systems (some poor
quality images)
Yes Unlimited number allowed. Easy to add or substitute.
Contacts Yes This feature is called Colleagues on UQR (The Contacts link gives contact details for the person such as email address, phone number and so on). Email links provided to colleagues in most cases, as well as their school or centre affiliations. Where a contact also has a UQR profile, a link to this is also given. Contacts are limited to researchers with UQR profiles, i.e., there is no facility to list researchers on projects who may work at other institutions. In some profiles, colleagues were broken up into
    • Similar Interests
    • Research Groups
    • Co-authors and Co-investigators
Yes This feature is called Friends on Facebook. Links are provided to profiles of friends – however, this is limited to contacts with Facebook profiles. It would be possible to link to researchers based anywhere as long as they were Facebook members, however.
Biography Yes Mostly limited to research-related events and activity, though personal detail can be provided. Yes Free form, though prompts exist for education and work.
Research Groups Yes System-generated list only, with link to web site of group. In some cases, this link is to a school or centre, not a specific research group. Yes Groups may have a Facebook profile, thus allowing any amount of data, including contacts, to be displayed. There is also a Groups facility – you can start your own group or join others.
Research Interests Yes Freeform – can be a phrase or a paragraph, depending on what is provided. Yes Freeform – can be a phrase or a paragraph, depending on what is provided.
Awards Yes Specific feature that is system-generated. Suppressed if data not provided. No Could be included if required.
Projects Yes Specific feature that is system-generated. Suppressed if data not provided. Links to further information within UQR about the project. No exterior links to project information provided. No Could be included if required. Could be linked to research group profile.
Publications Yes System-generated from DEEWR-reportable data, with the ability to add missing data, e.g., non- DEEWR -reportable publications such as newspaper articles, conference papers. Since it relies on feeds from the DEEWR reporting system, data is always at least a year out-of-date unless researchers take the trouble to add up-to-date publications information themselves.   Could be very easily populated via RSS feeds from other systems. Could also be input directly. Allows information to be up to the minute.
Student Theses Yes Lists theses projects for which the UQR person is the supervisor.   Could be included if required.
Available Projects Yes Lists areas of interest for which the researcher is qualified to act as a thesis supervisor.   Could be included if required.
Colleagues Yes See Contacts section above. Yes Called Friends on Facebook – see Contacts above.
Video No   Yes Users can upload and tag videos, record and send video messages, and publish videos captured on devices such as mobile phones.
Notes No   Yes Users have the option to write notes (that they can display publicly to their contact list), or to view any notes written by their contacts that mention the user.
Posted Items No   Yes Allows a user to post Web links for others to share. Could also be used to post a link to a user's own personal web site.
The Wall No   Yes Public note facility, where users can leave a message for a contact that is visible to the user's entire contact list.
Events No UQ does have an events database but it is not integrated with UQR. Researchers can easily add events to this UQ events database, but this will not be reflected within their UQR profile. Yes Users can browse for existing events or create and list their own. Users could also mention or publicise events using Posted Items or the Wall.
Causes No   Yes Users can display causes that matter to them, and allow their contacts to interact with a cause's web site.
Status No There is nothing in the service to indicate that a researcher may be on sabbatical leave, on a fieldwork trip, or engaged in a specific project. The information in UQR appears extremely static. Yes Users can show when they are online, at home, at work and so on. This is not fully customisable, as options within Facebook itself are limited to 'at work', 'with the family' and so on. Users could of course choose to use Facebook applications such as The Wall or Notes to notify others of their current activities and whereabouts. However, external applications such as Twitter can easily be integrated into Facebook. Twitter allows constant updating of a user's status and location. Thus an academic could 'twitter' that s/he is at a conference, on sabbatical, on a field trip, marking exams, lecturing at university and so on. This would then present a very 'live' view of the person.
RSS Feeds No Users can receive automatic updates relating to a specific researcher, research group or research facility by subscribing to the relevant UQR profile. Users must register first to be able to get updates. Registration for this purpose is open to anyone, but it was a little cumbersome, and registration did not work using the Firefox browser, so there were usability issues with this service. Yes RSS feeds can be integrated easily into a Facebook profile. Users of Facebook have a number of different RSS tools to choose from. The RSS feed offers a seamless way to integrate UQ eSpace publications into a Facebook profile.
Outward Links Yes Links can be provided to researchers' own web sites, to publications, or to profiles on services elsewhere. Yes Easy to list external links either via Posted Items or within personal information.
Multiple Pages Yes UQR is broken up into linked sections. Each displays separately. There is no facility to customise the look and feel of any of the information supplied. No The entire profile displays in a single scrollable page. The order of items and features on a page can be customised via a simple drag and drop. Items can be hidden if required or displayed only to certain classes of users.
Personal Information Yes Users can supply personal information in the Biography section. Yes Users can be as open as they wish with what information they share, and flesh out their biographies with photographs and video.
Email No Email addresses of researchers are supplied but the system does not support email within the system. Yes Users can email others directly in the Facebook system. Users receive an email also at their registered email address, alerting them to the mail on Facebook.
Conference calling No   Yes Users can make a conference call directly through Facebook using a number of different tools.
News Yes UQ Research news headlines are fed into profiles, but are not related to researchers, or targeted or personalised for the researcher being displayed in any way. Yes Users can import news feeds of their own choice or display feeds about their own activities.
Calendar No   Yes This can be integrated and made shareable.
GIS and mapping No   Yes Different applications can be used to map networks of people, groups, and places of interest. Using the Plazes application, mobile users can also locate themselves on a map depending on the wi-fi network to which they are currently connected.


Setting Up Profiles in Facebook and UQ Researchers

The ease or difficulty of setting up a profile in each of the two web sites, Facebook and UQ Researchers, can make a difference in whether or not the web site will be used. Therefore, we compared the processes involved in setting up the profiles.

Creating a Facebook page

To create a Facebook page, first go to the Facebook web site at <>. You will be asked to enter an email address and a password. After you have entered your email address, you will be able to create and design a profile.

There are eight headings to help you set up your Facebook page. These are: Basic, Contact, Relationships, Personal, Education, Employment, Picture, and Layout. The list below describes some of these headings in more detail:

  • Basic: Allows the user to enter information in regard to their gender, birthday, hometown, country, political views and religious views. Not all information is mandatory.
  • Contact: Allows the user to enter their contact details. This includes email addresses, phone numbers, residence (college), address, and web site, e.g., Professor Chanson's personal site at <>. There are privacy settings available that allow the user to choose who can view the selected information; this varies from no one, to just my friends, to all networks.
  • Relationships: Allows the user to enter personal details such as the particular sex to which they are attracted; if they are married, single or in a relationship; and what they are looking for on Facebook. This section can be left blank, or if filled in, can be hidden to all or some Facebook users.
  • Personal: Allows the user to enter personal information with regard to their interests and activities, favourite music, favourite television shows, favourite movies, favourite books and favourite quotes. Professor Chanson used this section to record his research interests, e.g., hydraulic engineering and applied fluid mechanics, particularly in the design of hydraulic structures, experimental investigations of two-phase flows, coastal hydrodynamics, water quality modelling, environmental management and natural resources.
  • Education: Allows the user to enter the name of the university that they attended or are currently attending. It also allows the user to enter the high school that they attended or are currently attending.
  • Employer: Allows the user to enter information about their employment situation. This includes their employer, position and position description, city/ town, and the time period that they have been employed. Past employers can also be added.

Creating a UQ Researchers page

Users must be academics or research higher degree students to qualify for inclusion in UQ Researchers. To enter the site, users must log in via a web page to which they must submit their UQ username and password. Much of the content is system-generated, e.g., publications and projects. Users can then enter new information or edit existing information in the following areas:

  • Contacts
  • Biography
  • Research Groups
  • Research Interests
  • Awards
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Student Theses
  • Available Projects
  • Colleagues

Interviewees' Comments

Three users liked the fact that colleagues could keep tabs on them via Facebook's status link or through services such as Twitter that they had integrated into Facebook. For example, one day Mark Schulz posted the following message on Twitter: "Last day of Aust Assoc of Eng Education (AaeE) Conf in Melbourne". Messages such as this help people see where Mark is, and what he's doing. The Twitter message appears within his Facebook profile because of the easy way Facebook integrates external applications.

One researcher thought that the linking of researchers gave 'context', and possibly credibility, to a person – that the linking to you as a contact by key researchers in a topic was in some ways an endorsement of you as a researcher.

Three researchers were part of several groups each and liked the feature of one profile, many groups. Individual groups consisted of former students, existing students, alumni of specific university schools or research projects, as well as special interest groups on specific research topics.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Facebook offers a number of useful features that could be adapted for users in the academic environment. Facebook also offers a more 'live', real-time view of a researcher, and it provides a much more engaging and interactive experience. The UQ Researchers service, by contrast, appears both old-fashioned and extremely static, and it offers no way within its system for visitors to interact with any of its content, or with any of the researchers profiled therein. Below are some recommendations for making UQ Researchers more 'user-friendly'.

  1. Add email facility
    The simple addition of the ability to email researchers within the system would boost the service's interactivity.
  2. Add customisation
    From a participating user's perspective, the ability to easily customise the look of pages would be helpful. Facebook's easy drag and drop should be copied. The ability to offer quick additions to content (e.g., useful links) would also improve the currency of the information.
  3. Allow integration of external applications
    The ability to integrate by a few mouse clicks external applications such as Twitter or RSS feeds would help personalise and 'liven up' the service.
  4. Offer more than text
    The service should offer audio and video content, possibly from lectures.
  5. Allow feedback
    Site visitors should be able to post notes or other information to the researcher, possibly by some form of feedback form or virtual whiteboard.
  6. Permit user preferences to be stored
    Visitors should also be able to group researchers together according to the visitor's preferences and interests, i.e., via a My UQ Researchers facility that would store and remember visitor preferences between sessions. These kinds of interactivity should only be open to registered, logged in users.
  7. Freshen the content more regularly
    Data within the system about publications should be much more up-to-date, possibly fed into the service from UQ eSpace. Or researchers should be able to choose the sources of their publications feed – or feeds if they wish to use multiple sources. The pre-loaded information, while designed to ensure that the data entry work for researchers is minimal, has its usefulness undermined by its lack of timeliness.
  8. Allow customised event feeds
    Researchers should also be able to easily integrate into their profiles upcoming events in which they are involved, such as conferences and seminars. This could possibly be linked into a researcher's online calendar, though the calendar view should be limited to those visitors who have gained permission to view such data.
  9. Facilitate targeted news
    Research news items should be more directly targeted to the profile being displayed, by means of keyword or tag matching of research interests to news headlines.
  10. Facilitate RSS feeds
    All data from the service should be available via RSS feed, and users should not have to register first to get feeds. The system should offer a pop-up range of feed tools for users once a visitor follows a "Subscribe to this feed" link.
  11. Create a researcher status
    The system should allow researchers to display a status, e.g., away on sabbatical, marking exams, on a fieldwork trip, or at a conference.

With the addition of features recommended above to UQ Researchers, the service could become much more useful and used by researchers at the University of Queensland.


1. UQ Researchers, <>.

2. MySpace, <>.

3. Facebook, <>.

4. Linkedin, <>.

5. Plazes, <>.

Appendix: Screenshots of three interviewees' UQ Researchers profile pages

Screenshot of Stephen Viller's UQ Researchers page

Screenshot of Hubert Chanson's UQ Researchers page

Screenshot of Mark Schultz's UQ Researchers page

Copyright © 2008 Belinda Weaver

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