How did you find me?” I asked Pablo Castro, one of the organisers of the University 2.0 course held recently at the UIMP (Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo).  “I can´t remember exactly” was the reply “but probably through Google“.  This wouldn´t surprise me – after all, if you were looking for a speaker for your conference wouldn´t most people use Google?

But what, therefore, is the point of an institutional directory of expertise? I´m sure most institutions will have one, containing details of researchers, in particular, their areas of expertise and their publications.  But are these being used or is Google now providing the interface to such content which may be held in a less structured form than the directory of expertise, such as departmental lists or personal home pages?

Or perhaps the researcher´s profile is being stored in LinkedIn? After all this service does seem to have significant momentum behind it.

Such suggestions are being made somewhat in jest. After all many researchers will not have published details about their activities on departmental Web pages or on third party services such as LinkedIn.

But in light of the need to be able to justify expenditure of time and effort on existing services and the need to be able to demonstrate the return on investment, it seems to me that it would be useful to explore these issues in more depth.

And rather than necessarily hosting a directory of expertise within the institution or relying on the uncertainties of Google finding results from a diversity of Web sites maybe LinkedIn could have a role in supporting the institution as well as the individual. After all a Mashable article on 10 Ways Universities Are Engaging Alumni Using Social Media has pointed out that “many universities are finding LinkedIn to be an effective tool to provide alumni with career resources“.

LinkedIn does have a developer network – so could it go beyond helping graduates in finding jobs and be used to help researchers make contacts?