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The way we access and consume information is continuously evolving, moving from traditional means such as watching TV to digital means such as using mobile applications. These changes also have significant implications for the research community.
Traditionally, researchers disseminated their work by attending conferences, publishing in academic and industry journals, and delivering lectures to both the public and scientific communities. With the advent of online media, there are now more avenues and a greater platform for sharing research, including through general and academic social networking services, blogposts, podcasts, and vlogs.
Online media presents a wealth of opportunities for disseminating research findings. For example, including video clips in journal articles can augment traditional research outputs. Currently, however, online media is often regarded as supplementary to research rather than as a critical component of the research lifecycle.
Being an informed researcher entails seeking wider audience engagement and having greater control over the message conveyed. Additionally, online media provides researchers with opportunities to be innovative in their approach.
As a savvy scholar, it’s essential to have a strong online presence. Do a quick search of your name: do you even appear 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 a 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 content. 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 is 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 the 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 a 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.