Being a scientist is not a private thing

Conducting research takes dedication, persistence, and perseverance. Publishing work is a major achievement, especially following any number of rejections. A fundamental end goal for scientists is for research to be made publicly available with their name associated. So why do only 36% of scientists elect to update a institute/organizational page with their latest research and information (of nearly 2787 respondents who had them, based on a 2014 Nature study)?

“You simply must have an online presence. In fact, you already have one…”

“You simply must have an online presence. In fact, you already have one (just try an Internet search of your name), so you might as well curate it.” says Karen Peterson, director of Scientific Career Development at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Science Magazine.

Sharing your research can yield more citations, invitations to workshops and events, and opportunities to collaborate on cool projects — or simply establish a connection with someone sharing similar interests.

We’ve compiled suggestions for those looking to expand or improve their online presence. Antony Williams, of the National Center for Computational Toxicology in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, “offers simple advice: choose two or three social-media platforms, invest the time to get them set up, and then spend perhaps two hours a month keeping them current.”

Four ways to get your research out there

Create a website

Personal websites no longer require web development knowledge or skills. There are a several free or cheap website builders that do the hard work for you, such as Wix, Weebly, or Github Pages. Research what your peers include, then decide what you like and what is most important for you. Neil Lawrence offers a comprehensive list of his work. Victoria Stodden includes all of her slides from conferences. Others like to keep it simple and treat it more like a digital resume.

To get started, include a list of publications, your background and research field, where you are now, and ways people can contact you (email, contact form, social, etc). Be sure to include links to other accounts relevant to your research and professional digital footprint, including but not limited to:

Get social

Social media is not only about sharing your research and opinions, but also about listening to others. “Twitter is the place where I actually hear people discussing science. That’s been an eye-opener for some people… Suddenly, serious people, serious scientists, particularly in genomics, started joining. And serious discussions are happening,” says Richard Sever, executive editor at Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives and cofounder of the life-science preprint server bioRxiv, in a The Scientist article.

“Twitter is the place where I actually hear people discussing science. That’s been an eye-opener for some people…”

Even if you start off just listening, you’ll gain visibility into other research, be a part of a community and learn about job opportunities, events or cool new technology.

Extend your presentation

Have you presented at an event, workshop, or post session? Services like Slideshare, SpeakerDeck, or Figshare make it easy to share your material following the event, extending your knowledge to a broader community.

Your opening and closing slides should include ways for people to follow and/or contact you, and can be added to your personal website.

Start a blog

A blog allows you to control the narrative around your research and make it more accessible to a wider group of people. You can provide color to your work that may not be published with the article, such as what motivated you to begin researching, the impact you hope it brings to the bottom line or tips and tricks that helped you along the way.

Greg Gbur, an associate professor of physics at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, talked to Science about blogging and tenure: “‘[y]our tenure package is a four-course meal, and blogging is the dessert,’ he said. ‘I wanted to make sure someone who looked knew it was something extra.’

Think about blogs as a way to pose questions or interesting thoughts, reflect on talks you gave, or shed light on your ‘ah ha’ moments. Richard Lenski’s Telliamed Revisited (biology), Mike Croucher’s Walking Randomly (software engineering), and Jon Tennant’s Green Tea and Velociraptors are examples. Wordpress offers a free plan and is very easy to get up and running.

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