The open academic: Why and how business academics should use social media to be more ‘open’ and impactful

Ian P. McCarthy, I.P. and Bogers, M.L.A.M. (2023) The open academic: Why and how business academics should use social media to be more ‘open’ and impactful. Business Horizons, 66 (1): 153-166.


The mission of Business Horizons is to publish research that practitioners can understand to help them change their thoughts and actions. However, this mission remains an elusive ideal for many business school academics as they struggle to overcome the research-practice gap. To help scholars bridge this gap, we present social media as a boundary-spanning technology to be open to connecting with, learning from and working with academics and other stakeholders outside their field. Social media can be used as a boundary-spanning technology to help bridge the research-practice gap. To support this idea, we present a process model of five research activities—networking, framing, investigating, disseminating, and assessing—and describe how social media can make each activity more open. We present a framework of four social media-enabled open academic approaches—connector, observer, promoter, and influencer—and outline some do’s and don’ts for engaging in each approach. We also discuss the potential dark side of openness through social media and offer some coping strategies. As per the mission and scope of Business Horizons, this article aims to help business academics rethink and change their practices so that our profession is more widely regarded for how our research positively impacts business practice and society in general.

Social media to promote more open dissemination of research? Did this really need to be an academic article in 2023? Research Impact Canada has been promoting this for a few years, see this 2020 video. And in this journal club we reviewed an article about twitter for scientific research in 2013.

But maybe business research needed this. The authors make the case for openness in research:

  • Openness helps us better identify and formulate problems in business using knowledge from those who experience the issues, rather than those who merely study them.
  • Engagement with a greater range of stakeholders and expertise helps us draw upon their perspectives, theories, and methods to co-design research that addresses important questions and problems.
  • Openness pushes us to frame our intellectual ideas and technical research findings in ways that resonate with and are more accessible to practitioners, policymakers, and the public.
  • Addressing some of the world’s grand challenges requires openness in utilizing different academic, policy, and business expertise to solve complex global challenges.

From our mobilization centric lens these reasons are not new but it is important to be reminded of them.

Table 1 has a list of open tools for scholarly impact listing “digital tools for searching and identifying published academic work and assessing its influence within and beyond academia.” Sure, there are analytic tools like PlumX but these are measuring social media analytics. They do not assess the influence or impact of research beyond academia because you don’t know what anyone did other than see the post/tweet etc.

What did catch my eye are the four different approaches that an academic can consider when using tools for greater openness: observer, connector, promoter, and influencer. These are presented in Table 3 where you can also see some dos and don’ts.


  • Passively follows, monitors, collects, and curates content related to their research.
  • An academic wallflower that rarely engages beyond liking and resharing.


  • Connects, follows, and consorts with those related to their research.
  • Collects friends, followers, and contacts.


  • Promotes themselves, their research, and their institutions.
  • Seeks to make a difference to themselves and their academic communities.


  • Actively advocates, educates, and persuades to make a difference to their field and society.

The article ends with “the dark side of social media enabled openness.

  • Time drain
  • Academic narcissism: check out the “Kardashian Index. This index compares the number of followers a researcher has on Twitter to the number of citations they have for their peer-reviewed work.” Also humblebragging. That’s intuitive but new to me nonetheless.
  • Uninhibited backlashes
  • Mission reward misalignment (ie not being rewarded academically for efforts towards openness.

Questions for brokers:

  1. If you are active on social media are you an observer, connector, promoter or influencer?
  2. I wonder what our Research Impact Canada colleagues from Athabasca University, Canada’s open university thinks about mission-reward misalignment for openness?
  3. Have you experienced the dark side of social media? If so, which of those have you experienced and how did you address it?

Research Impact Canada is producing this journal club series to make evidence on knowledge mobilization more accessible to knowledge brokers and to facilitate discussion about research on knowledge mobilization. It is designed for knowledge brokers and other parties interested in knowledge mobilization.