I've recently realized that a professor, who is an extremely renowned researcher in mathematics, added Mathematics, Mathematical research, and similar "skills" to his LinkedIn profile. My question is:

Is that how LinkedIn is supposed to be used by scholars?

Put differently, I realize that the business-friendly format of LinkedIn leads to some oddity in the profiles of academics, but is there a way to use sensibly the "skills list" without stating the obvious (in this case, that a math professor is "skilled at maths")?

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    I guess this question is impossible to answer without knowing what you are trying to achieve with LinkedIn. But yes, listing that a math professor can do math is stupid, but that's pretty much how all LinkedIn profiles within and outside of academia work (xLeitix - Occ: Software Engineer - Skills: <long list of standard software engineering skills>) – xLeitix Feb 8 '15 at 13:56
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    Seems good to me. People may search LinkedIn for certain skills, and this guy can now be found with a search for "mathematics". – GEdgar Feb 8 '15 at 14:24
  • @GEdgar although people can list many skills it does not necessarily mean they are really good at those skills and I don't know whether endorsements made in the linked in can be fully trusted. – Alireza Feb 8 '15 at 16:28
  • IMHO the "skills" listing on LinkedIn is pretty much devalued and pointless, partly by the binary way that it presents things. In the example above, sure the professor has maths skills, but do does the engineering undergrad. And so does the waiter in the cafe who works out change. – Flyto Feb 9 '15 at 7:00
  • (also partly by the "gamification" aspect. I've been "endorsed" for plenty of skills by people who have no way of knowing whether I have them.) – Flyto Feb 9 '15 at 7:01

I think that this use is fine, and some professors may add their subspecialties to these skill lists (e.g. Algebraic Geometry). I think that being prescriptivist about how a social networking site is used is a bit fallacious in the first place. Professors may use LinkedIn to find connections that lead to work in similar ways to non-academics. There is no "supposed to be" in this context.

For example, at most US universities faculty are responsible for finding funding for their summer salary. That might come in the form of teaching summer courses, finding grant funding, or working as a consultant to a business or national lab. Putting oneself out there on LinkedIn might be a great way to find or be found for consulting gigs. Also, not all profs are permanently committed to their current jobs, so being on job-based social networking sites may lead to their next opportunity.

I agree that it's a little silly for senior people to be listing skills like this and farming endorsements, but I think this is more like the future than it is like the past. I wouldn't be surprised to see LinkedIn add features that make it more attractive to academics to use. The site is already an online resume for non-academics, adding academic-style publication references, grants, courses taught, etc. might allow us to use LinkedIn as an online CV. The site already has publications, but they don't really support them like ResearchGate, Google Scholar, or other academic publication aggregators (yet).


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