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The way that we find and consume information is constantly evolving – from traditional (such as watching television) to digital (such as mobile apps). These changes are also having some significant effects on research, as well as everywhere else.
Traditionally, researchers disseminate their work by attending conferences, publishing in journals (both academic and industry) and giving lectures (both to the public and to the scientific community). Online media now provides more channels and a bigger space to share work: through both general and academic social networking services, blogposts, podcasts, and vlogs.
Online media provides a host of possibilities for disseminating research. Including video clips in journal articles, for example, can 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.
To be a savvy scholar means trying to have a wider reach for public engagement and greater control over your message. As a researcher, it also provides you with opportunities to do things innovatively.
To be a savvy scholar, the first thing you should focus on is your online identity. When you search for your own name, do you even show up on 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:
- 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 on 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. Try to have a digital presence on professional sites such as Google Scholar, ResearchGate, LinkedIn, or Academia.edu.
- Ensure that you have an appropriate image. Establishing a professional, branded presence starts with a great photo. It would also be great if you have consistent photos across your profiles.
- Contribute. For example, write blogposts. Though you are expected 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 through 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. You can create a profile on Loop or Mendeley; for finding donors and funding, you can join DonorSearch. Subscribe to YouTube channels (Psychreg’s channel features interviews and audio reads) 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. Think about this: 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 write a blogpost about it or talk on a podcast or vlog.
- 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 the American Psychological Association, which shows different ‘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 your 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 should people 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 audience can find and understand it; and track the most effective networks for getting your work read, discussed, and cited. It also gives you a 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.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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