What is the image that comes to mind when you think of a researcher at a large University? A lone individual who spends countless hours tucked away in a quiet corner of the library or working tirelessly on an experiment in the lab located in the basement of the Science department? Though the image of the isolated researcher is largely a stereotype, there is unfortunately still some truth to it. With 23 campuses, The City University of New York can be a lonely place for faculty, staff and graduate students working independently on their research projects, detached from the larger university community. Ask any graduate student or faculty member and (s)he would tell you that research is usually a lonely endeavor but it does not always have to be this way, as seen in the example of CUNY. In an effort to foster camaraderie, academic discussion and connect the university's campuses, CUNY recently launched its new Academic Commons site, which is basically a social networking site.
As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, users can create and join groups, post messages, share files and collaborate on wikis. Instead of being a colossal waste of time, social networking in this case has helped many scholars connect with others who share similar research interests as well as connect with faculty members and fellow colleagues who they would have otherwise never met. As with any social networking site, groups that are created on Academic Commons are not always purely for academic or professional reasons. These groups range from open-source publishing to educational games and groups around favorite pizza joints and places to hang out. Though the CUNY network targets a decentralized academic audience and serves a different purpose from Facebook or LinkedIn, Academic Commons has definitely made researching at CUNY a lot less lonely.