“I *breathe* and *live* collaboration. It was natural for me to write about empathy within academia.” – Raul Pacheco-Vega

Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega is an Assistant Professor in the Public Administration Division of the Centre for Economic Research and Teaching, CIDE (Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas, CIDE, AC) based out of CIDE Region Centro in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He studies comparative public policy in North America, with a focus on wastewater governance and environmental politics.

Dr. Pacheco-Vega is responsible for creating the Twitter hashtag  #ScholarSunday . #ScholarSunday tweets recommend academic handles to follow, and offer informative context about scholarly research. He’s presented, written, and been interviewed on the usefulness of social media for  facilitating connectedness amongst researchers, enhancing knowledge mobilization, and promoting career advancement. He also uses Twitter as a discussion forum within his classes; encouraging students to tweet about class reading via class hashtags. Dr. Pacheco-Vega kindly spoke with Acclaim about how he got started with tweeting and blogging, and the relationships between social media presence, research, and teaching.


Acclaim: When and why did you get started on Twitter? At what point did you start to see its potential for research collaboration and professional connectedness?

RPV: Ironically, I came to Twitter through non-scholarly means. I am a Vancouverite, and Vancouver has a very strong (and innovative) social media community. In 2008, I was invited to join Twitter, and the rest is history, as they say. I think I first saw the potential for teaching and research around 2011. But I think that I started getting a lot more traction (and followers) when I created the hashtags #MyResearch (which was short lived because it became polluted with spam tweets really quickly) and #ScholarSunday (which is still going strong). While I created both of them in 2012, I think #ScholarSunday really took off around mid 2014.

Acclaim: What colleagues and/or disciplines have been the the most helpful  to you with building a community around #ScholarSunday?

RPV: Well, this is a really challenging question because I don’t want to leave anyone out. Many people who help me out start #ScholarSunday recommendations without prompt. Steven Shaw, Rhonda Ragsdale, Florian Krampe, Nyasha Junior are four of the top #ScholarSunday recommendations initiators, but I’m grateful that many others share on their own without me prompting them.  As for disciplines, I’m both a political scientist and a human geographer, so I often seek to follow people who work in those fields. That said, I’ve found that anthropologists, sociologists and political scientists all have taken a nice liking to Twitter.


Acclaim: Much of your research blog centers around offering helpful personal approaches to professional problems common to academic life, and you’ve stressed the need for empathy and supportiveness within a profession in which many encounter antagonism. What encouraged you to make this a writing priority, and what have the responses been from other scholars, graduate students, and colleagues?

RPV: My PhD experience was somewhat unusual, compared to many other scholars (I did my PhD in Canada, at The University of British Columbia). My PhD advisor was very rigorous, and doing the PhD was challenging, but I had a lot of institutional support and mentorship from senior professors. I promised myself that if I survived the PhD (I faced numerous challenges throughout the process), I would make it a priority to help others. I study collaborative approaches to resource governance, so I *breathe* and *live* collaboration. It was natural for me to write about empathy within academia. The response has (generally speaking) been positive, with only  a very few grumpy people complaining that I encourage PhD students and Early Career Scholars (ECR) to be lazy and to “not give it their all”. Nothing could be further from the truth. I encourage balance, kindness and empathy, because I believe you can be a great scholar and a good human being. These two concepts aren’t at odds. As for whether I encourage scholars to work hard, a lot of my writing on my blog is on how to write with discipline and regularity, but without overworking. I believe each individual has their own balance, limits, interests, etc. I now take weekends off, but for some other academics, it may be necessary to work a few weekends. As long as they feel they’ve balanced their lives, I think that’s all I can ask for.

“I encourage balance, kindness and empathy, because I believe you can be a great scholar and a good human being.”

Acclaim: Has your social media presence ever faced any criticism from colleagues or administrators?

RPV: In both universities I’ve been a faculty member (UBC and CIDE) I’ve been “the professor who does social media,” so I’ve been the pioneer. It’s a challenge to be the first or among the first, because it puts you, whether you like it or not, in a leadership position. I have taught many workshops on social media for academics, and I’ve emphasized how useful Twitter has been for me, and how it can help other academics. The first thing I’ve explained to colleagues and administrators is: “There are many reasons why you should be on Twitter, but here, don’t believe ME,  let others tell you why.” Usually, the accounts of other social-media-savvy academics are enough to convince them. I also share my top 5 reasons why Twitter is helpful in academic contexts. And I’m proud to say that the number of faculty members from UBC and CIDE who are now on Twitter has grown almost exponentially since I first started. I would like to believe I had a tiny bit to do with that.

“The first thing I’ve explained to colleagues and administrators is: ‘There are many reasons why you should be on Twitter, but here, don’t believe ME, let others tell you why.’ “

Acclaim: We counted approximately 89 tweets from last Sunday (January 18). How long does it take you to set this up? How do you decide what to tweet about in a given week, and does it correlate with your research/writing schedule?

RPV: Well, I tweet as I think, and I normally blurt out things as they come to me. I think of Twitter as the watercooler, although I realize many people follow me for advice on specific disciplines, or topics. I decided to be a human on my academic Twitter handle a long time ago, so I tweet as I go. I think overall I am not on social media more than 1-2 hours on any given Sunday. Since it’s the day I spend with both my parents (and usually I hang out with them individually), I blurt out a lot of tweets, then head out for brunch, come back, tweet more, etc. When I am very busy, obviously, I don’t tweet at all.

Acclaim: What are your favorite non-Academic Twitter handles to keep up with?

RPV: To be perfectly honest I rarely read non-Academic Twitter, except for my close friends’ tweets. But actually  I mainly use Facebook for personal stuff, as opposed to Twitter, which I keep purely academic.