Earlier this week, we wrote about keeping current with the latest research in your field using social media. But how can you get the word out about your own research online?
Over the last few years, a number of social media sites have popped up aimed directly at researchers. Academia.edu, ResearchGate, Mendeley’s Research Network, and Kudos are just a few of the many sites encouraging researchers to build a profile and start disseminating their work online.
There is much debate about whether these platforms are a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, it’s important for our work to be visible, and online profiles can go a long way towards helping us build our public identities as researchers. On the other hand, it’s not always clear what these networks are doing with our information. Academia.edu, for instance, has been accused of monetizing academics’ work and being vague about how uploaded papers will be used.
Open source alternatives such as AUT’s Scholarly Commons provide an opportunity to make your research freely available without paywalls or profit motives. As it’s indexed by Google Scholar, uploading to the Commons can bring increased citations. (Of course, it’s important to ensure that you’re uploading material in compliance with any agreements you’ve made with publishers or co-authors.)
Typically, the audience for open source repositories and academic social media sites is composed of other scholars. But what if you want your research to have an even broader reach? Sure, the internet can be a channel for disseminating research; but surely it can also allow us to democratize it?
In the internet era, we as scholars have the power to create our own media – and many have. The Conversation is an independent news site authored by researchers and academics who are experts on the topics about which they write (the site has just hired an NZ-based editor, so expect to see more local content soon). Project Syndicate collects opinion pieces from scholars and other expert public figures, and distributes them to media outlets in 150 countries. Numerous independent researchers – like astrophysicist Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) and sociologist Tressie Mc (@TressieMcPhD) – have created popular social media accounts on mainstream platforms. Their mix of academic content and humour wins them fans among fellow scholars and laypeople alike.
Communicating your research to academic and non-academic audiences can be a great way to really broaden your impact. It’s important, though, to strategize about the kind of online presence you want for your research. Choose which platforms to use. Choose which audience/s to target. One or two active, well-maintained channels of dissemination will be much more effective than ten empty accounts on various social media platforms. Whichever mode of online research communication you choose, be consistent and be savvy!