Using Social Media in Academic Promotion

During 2016 Mayo Clinic’s Academic Appointments and Promotions Committee began using Social Media scholarship as part of their metrics for promotion. This was based on the recognition of the increasing importance of social media for patient care and engagement, outreach, research and medical education. We announced this innovative concept in our blog, which led to an overwhelming amount of requests for details on how-to-do-it and guidance in implementation.

In response to this enthusiasm, we recently published our conceptual framework and a how-to-do guideline in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education (open access article). This was a fabulous multidisciplinary endeavor from Social Media and Academic teams trying to shine some light at this new field a scholarship. The authors of the paper are Daniel Cabrera, Bryan Vartabedian, Robert Spinner, Lee Aase, Barbara Jordan and Farris Timimi.

Here's a summary:

The role of academic physicians is to advance the domains of practice, research and education. We have typically focused on traditional areas and methods such as medical journals and face-to-face medical education; however, those paradigms are changing rapidly with the advent of the internet, digital platforms and social media. Scholars should occupy and make their impact in these new spaces as well as the classical venues.

Academic Promotions and Tenure Committees in academic institutions are charged with ensuring that the scholarly work of faculty impacts the academy. These committees aim to provide a promotion system rewarding the influence and significance of research, clinical care and education. The committees reward consistency and excellence.

The integration of digital and social media scholarly activities into academic promotions criteria has proven difficult, as with any other innovation. The major difficulties are related to

  • cultural differences between traditional media (books, journals) and digital platforms (social media);
  • the difficulty making equivalent comparisons,
  • absence of a recognized appraisal framework and the lack of the ability to consistently track digital work,
  • concerns about junk-scholarship and
  • the difficulty of measuring impact.

Despite these obstacles, it is of critical importance for scholars and institutions to use these new academic space in order to remain relevant in this new information and knowledge world.

While details are in the paper, here's a brief summary of the main ideas and criteria we offer to adopt Social Media and Digital scholarship for Academic Promotions:

  • Institutions should have clear goals and objectives for their digital presence, create clear guidelines governing the behavior of their scholars in social media as well as provide adequate training about healthcare digital platforms.
  • The Academic Promotions Committees have to create a clear appraisal framework based on institutional values, strategic priorities and specifics of the academic niche such as size and audience (a generic template is described in the paper).
  • The scholars applying for promotion using social media activities should create digital portfolios detailing their development plans, academic philosophy, alignment with strategic priorities, description of activities and quality of their work. We propose to use the widely adopted Glassick’s model.
  • The Committees appraising the portfolios must have transparent metrics to assess the portfolios, including digital analytics and peer-review of their impact. The combination of both methods probably facilitates a two-perspective approach (digital and traditional).

If you have any questions, we are happy to help you navigate this new paradigm. Ask in the comments below or via email.


  • Daniel Cabrera, Bryan S. Vartabedian, Robert J. Spinner, Barbara L. Jordan, Lee A. Aase, and Farris K. Timimi(2017) More Than Likes and Tweets: Creating Social Media Portfolios for Academic Promotion and Tenure. Journal of Graduate Medical Education: August 2017, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 421-425

Editor's Note: Daniel Cabrera, M.D. is an Emergency Medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic.

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Using Social Media in Academic Promotion
Using Social Media in Academic Promotion | Mayo Clinic Social Media Network
During 2016 Mayo Clinic’s Academic Appointments and Promotions Committee began using Social Media scholarship as part of their metrics for promotion.

I Wonder how many people know about this?

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