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Online media provides a host of possibilities for disseminating research. Including video clips in journal articles, for example, can really enhance traditional research outputs. Unfortunately, at the moment online media is often viewed as an accessory to research, rather than as an important element in a unified research life cycle.
The way that people find and consume information is constantly changing: from traditional (such as watching television) through Web searching (think Google) to digital (mobile apps). These changes are having some big effects on research, as well as everywhere else.
Traditionally, researchers disseminated their work by attending conferences, publishing in journals (both academic and industry) and giving lectures (both to the public and to students). Online media now provides more channels and a bigger space to disseminate our work: through both general and academic social networking services, blogposts, podcasts and vlogs.
We have a wider reach for public engagement and greater control over our message. It also provides us with opportunities to do things differently.
The first thing a savvy scholar should focus on is your online identity. When you search for your own name, do you even show up in the first page of results?
The vast majority of Google users only click on links on the first page of Google when performing a search. This sounds a bit scary, especially if you don’t know what appears on the first page. The good news is that there are things you can do to improve it.
Here are some tips on how you can shape your online identity:
- Have your own website. Some researchers already have institutional profiles. If your university doesn’t provide one, or you don’t have a university affiliation, think about creating your own free page on About.me or setting up a free blog at WordPress.
- Create an ORCID account. An ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) is a non-proprietary alphanumeric code to uniquely identify scientific and other academic authors and contributors.
- Create a profile on professional sites such as Google Scholar, ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Mendeley or Academia.edu.
- Ensure that you have an appropriate image.
- Contribute. For example, write blogposts. Though you are paid to write publishable research and not blogposts, think of blogs as opportunities to create accessible outlets for your research. Psychreg always welcomes contributions.
Being a savvy scholar is also about creating connections via the digital world. Whether your preferred social media service is Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, here are ways to help you achieve this:
- Follow interesting researchers online. Here’s a list of celebrity psychologists on Twitter. #ScholarSunday is another great way to find interesting academics.
- Use hashtags appropriately. #ecrchat, #withaphd, #phdchat and #phdlife are popular ones. You will soon discover field-specific hashtags as you spend more time on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
- Sign up for services that can help you. ScienceOpen is a professional networking platform for scholars to enhance their research in the open, make an impact, and receive credit for it. You can also create a profile on Loop or Mendeley; for finding donors and funding, you can join DonorSearch. Subscribe to YouTube channels (such as Microsoft Research) and listen to podcasts.
Even with these resources to help, some academics remain reluctant to be savvy scholars for fear of being accused of self-promotion. Disseminating your research online is marketing, a strategy to reach a wider audience. Don’t think of it as self-promotion; think of it as confident promotion.
Talk about your work
In disseminating your work online, here are some things to consider:
- Share your data and get credit for it. You can blog about it or talk on a podcast/video.
- Employ a spoke-hub distribution method. You might contribute guest posts to blogs or be a guest on a podcast or a vlog, but always point your audience back to your website (or your institutional profile).
- Learn how to properly cite online contents. I love this illustration from APA, showing ‘standard’ sources and the extended world of social media sources.
To effectively communicate online you have to drop the jargon. Avoid using it; it doesn’t make you sound smarter and audience are less likely to be engaged. Here are some points to consider:
- Key message: What is the main point?
- Audience connection: Why should people care?
- Evidence: Why people should believe you?
Find your audience
Now, let’s talk about research impact. A great way that I have discovered to increase your impact is through Kudos. The platform allows you to open up your research so new audiences can find and understand it, and track the most effective networks for getting your work read, discussed, and cited. It also gives you chance to learn where to focus your efforts to make the best use of your time. This can help in improving the metrics that you use to evaluate your impact.
Research dissemination can take many directions, but as savvy scholars we should use online media to build our research impact. Harnessing the power of online media can prove to be a robust strategy, not only for research dissemination but, more importantly, for knowledge mobilisation.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared on The Research Whisperer.
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