1. Introduction

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6. Conclusions

The present study contributes to our understanding of academic engagement by examining the factors that affect academics’ intentions to use SNS and other online technologies as a part of their academic practice. Differences were observed between the model of SNS and the model of online technologies, indicating that academics consider using SNS for different reasons and in different ways than the rest of online technologies. While academics’ attitude and perceived behavioural control are the main drivers of their intentions in both cases, social norms play an important role only in the case of online technologies. Academics seem to consider SNS more suitable for networking (either for creating new contacts or connecting with the old ones) and maintaining a professional image in the academic community and the rest of online technologies for making new acquaintances in their research area and seeking academic information. As far as perceived behavioural control is concerned, self-efficacy plays an important role in both models, but privacy control is considered important only in the case of the other online technologies. In the OT model, where social norms are a significant predictor of intention, both peer and external influence are found to affect the social norms of academics.

Theoretical and Practical Implications

The paper’s first theoretical contribution stems from the joint use the Decomposed TPB and the Uses and Gratification Theory. By jointly using these theories, this study has made it possible to examine a number of motives users may have for using the chosen technologies for performing a given task (in our case engaging with academics). In doing so, we were able to demonstrate the ecological validity of the joint model in two different cases of technology usage. Secondly, we contributed to the growing body of literature studying why academics participate in SNS or use other technologies. By following a quantitative approach our study has filled the gap in the relative literature in which qualitative methodology prevails. Using an established theoretical framework enabled us to determine specific factors that affect academics behavioural intention. Our findings not only shed light in terms of how different user groups utilise online technologies but also how online technologies usage can be different when it comes to undertaking a set of tasks by the a user group.

From a practical perspective our findings provide information about how academics think about online engagement and adapt their engagement strategies accordingly. In an increasingly competitive sector, effective use of online technologies can provide tangible benefits for individual users. Similar strategies can be formed and executed at an institutional level. As academics are the ones that undertake research and create impact it is important that they feature at the foreground of their institution’s engagement efforts with other researchers and the public. Providing training and support on how to use SNS and other online technologies could be helpful since self-efficacy has been found to play a crucial role in academics’ perceived behavioural control. Training on how to maintain one’s privacy could also be helpful in making academics feel more competent in using online technologies. In addition, associating the use of SNS for academic engagement with a professional image that is desirable in academia and recognising online engagement activities as a part of formal academic practice may result in more academics adopting social media for professional reasons. Finally, our findings can help academic online services providers, such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate, understand the needs of their members and design more effective services. For example, as academics focus on maintaining their connections and building their professional image, SNS providers can aim to offer new innovative online services that meet these needs and enhance the networking experience on their platforms. In addition, as social norms do not affect academics' intention to use SNS, marketing approaches that stress the actual benefits that an academic can gain by using SNS could prove to be more efficient in the recruitment of new members than approaches that encourage academics to join a social network because their peers are already members.

Limitations and Future Research

With regard to this study’s limitations, due to the specific context on which our research focuses, asking questions that capture actual use reliably was not feasible. Although we were able to capture the general use of SNS/online technologies by asking respondents to self-report the time they spend on them, specific questions about the time spent on online technologies solely for engaging with other academics were considered too complicated as it is often difficult to separate personal from professional use. This is also due to the fact that most academics do not consciously separate the time they spend using online technologies for engagement purposes from the time they spend using them for other reasons. Consequently, our model accounts only for intentions and not for actual use. Also, our model does not differentiate intention from continuance intention. However, the results of the independent t-tests show that users rate intention, attitude, social norms and perceived behavioural control more highly than potential users in both the cases of SNS and OT. Also, the regression analysis shows that satisfaction affects continuance intention. Therefore, future research could focus on continuance intention to use online technologies and how satisfaction affects the other variables of the model. Finally, the generalisability of our findings may be limited due to the demographics of our sample. Although special attention has been paid to including academics from different countries, levels of experience and disciplines, the majority of our respondents work in universities in Europe and almost half our sample comes from the social sciences. Using the results of this study to understand academics’ motives from other disciplines and/or geographical areas should be done with caution.

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