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Researcher Visibility: Active vs passive online networking

To increase your visibility you can either take a passive or active approach. With a passive approach, you could for example setup author profiles and regularly update these, while with an active approach you regularly provide content or interaction with your audience. Especially for the more active approach, the amount of content and quality of your input will directly translate into output of visibility.

We next will look at various approaches and resources to increase your visibility, including the creation of author profiles, sharing resources, blogging and podcasts, networking, and science events. Although the following is comprehensive, it is by far not complete. Any suggestions are more than welcome!

1. Creating author profiles

Aim: Creating an author profile to create an index of yourself, including your contact information, experience, education, work, and science. Most science-based pages will also include basic statistics, such as your H-index.

For all of the following you will need to setup a profile and maintain it regularly. Make sure to add an up to date headshot of yourself to increase your visibility. If you setup more than one of these profiles, ensure that the content between them is consistent and up to date.

Researchgate is a platform for scientists to share work content (papers, patents, code, figures, etc.). However, it also allows you to network via discussions and finding collaborators. User profiles contain various sections and basic stats (e.g. citations, recommendations, research interest, and reads) which are automatically updated. The biggest advantage is that work can be uploaded or made available upon request, fostering open science.

A Google Scholar profile is a simple way of collating your publications, which will be automatically updated and easily found by the Google Search Engine. It is basically creating your profile in the database, thus there is no interaction with others.

ORCID is a digital identifier unique to the individual scientists, allowing to amalgamate all your work independent of name changes or using variations, as well as allows you to claim work if there is another author with the same name. In your profile you can list various things, such as employment, education and qualifications, positions and distinctions, membership and service, funding, and work. However, personally I would say that the biggest advantage is that ORCID can be used to login to many web services, such as manuscript submission portals journals.

Scopus author ID profiles allow you to examine the statistics of your publications, including timelines for output and citations, topics, and which references you used. One advantage is that it also shows the number of co-authors, which is a useful indication of your connectedness and collaborations.

Web of Science ResearcherID, similar to ORCID, provides a digital identifier unique to the individual scientists to amalgamate your work. The environment to set up your Web of Science ResearcherID this is now called Publons. The surplus here is that you can also track your peer reviewing activity and journal editing work in addition to your publications., similar to ResearchGate, allows you to share work content and find collaborators. The free version allows you to perform basic analytics, while the premium version provides enhanced analytics and allows you to create a personal website.

Mendeley profiles, which is most famously known for the citation manager has resources other than that, such as Mendeley profiles. The profile allows you to showcase for research outputs, receiving citation, and usage statistics. Additionally, you can work on group collaborations and establish a network.

Kudos is a platform to share and explain your research. Once you upload your work, you can add additional things, such as links, news coverage, and lay summaries, which is called “enrichment”.

2. Sharing resources

Aim: Providing a resource for others, such as code, figures, or presentations, and potentially start collaborations over these.

Github is a repository for software development and version control, called source code management (SCM). It allows collaborations as well as additional documentation, visualization, etc. In addition to the SCM, GitHub Pages allow users to establish basic websites, user blogs, project documentation, or books, which can accompany their software.

Figshare is a repository for research outputs, including figures, datasets, posters, images, and videos. Data files can be uploaded in any format and the items are then attributed a digital object identifier (DOI) allowing you to use altmetrics. The surplus is that negative results can be shared and other platforms integrated (e.g. ORCID, Symplectic Elements, Github).

SlideShare is a repository for presentations and infographics, allowing files with various formats (PowerPoint, Word, PDF, or OpenDocument) to be uploaded, rated, shared, or commented on.

3. Blogging and podcasts

Aim: Sharing your thoughts and ideas in a cohesive, yet often less formal way.

WordPress is a platform originally developed for blogs, which has grown to include mailing lists, forums, galleries, membership areas, learning management systems (LMS), as well as online stores. Two variations exist, namely “.com” and “.org”.

  • “.com”: Is free to use, unless you want to remove branding. The plugins are restricted to the ones provided, and freedom (modifications and customizations) is restricted. You will not need any external host or domain name.

  • “.org”: You will need to pay annual fees, but it is free of branding, you can include any plugins, and modification/customization can be done.

There is not one answer to “which one is better”, as this depends on your individual needs.

Blogging on existing platforms: Various platforms exist which provide a voice for researchers, connecting them to a wider audience. The surplus of blogging on existing platforms is that you do not need your own platform, your work will be dissemination via the channels of the platform, and often you get feedback (or even rigorous editing) from the editor to improve your work.

Blogging on your own platform: When choosing to blog on your own platform (e.g. personal website, like I do here) you will have naturally less traffic than using existing platforms. So considering how to advertise and share to reach your target audience is crucial. Also, it is less likely that you will have input and feedback, thus if one of your aims is to improve your writing this might not be the best way to do it.

Podcasts use spoken word to discuss a certain topic. Podcasts come in various shapes and forms, which little-to-no limits on (a) how big or small, (b) one or many hosts, (c) live versus recorded, or (d) carefully scripted to improvised. They are often complemented with websites containing notes, guest biographies, transcripts, additional resources, commentary, and even a community forum. They are a fantastic medium to experiment and improve spoken communication skills.

4. Social Media Networking

Aim: Using interactive platform for interactions, building a network, sharing your work/thoughts, and learning about others.

Remember, the amount of content and quality of your input will directly translate into output of visibility.

Twitter is the go-to network for most researchers. It is the top 4 website worldwide and can be used to connect with people you know you as well as to connect with new people. You can create your own tweets or retweet information from others, allowing you to share your own voice as well as the voice of others. It has become one of the main resources for many researchers, involving discussions around science, conferences, or papers. Thus, allowing you to be informed about and engage with the latest research. Using dedicated hashtags such as #medicine, #PhD, #academicTwitter, or #ScienceTwitter can quickly connect you with people sharing the same interests.

Slack and Reddit are communication platforms which are used more and more to discuss topics of interest. Especially Slack is now often used to accompany for example conferences to add a layer of interaction and communication, which might otherwise not be achieved.

LinkedIn is a networking platform, which allows you to share your CV, work items, engage in discussions, or look for a job. It is a great platform at the intersection of academia and industry. The surplus is that it can be supplemented with endorsements, letter of recommendation, and customer reviews. However, in the world ranking it is only ranked 24.

Facebook is a platform with a less academic focus. It is often used to connect with old friends from school or university. This is not to say that you cannot make following on Facebook as exemplified by the book One Million Followers: How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days by Brendan Kane.

YouTube is the top 2 website in the world ranking and uses film as medium of communication. It is a very large platform but not intensively used by most researchers. The surplus of YouTube is that it is a repository rather than a networking platform. Thus, it is not as fast-paced as others such as Twitter and therefore your content can have an impact for a longer time.

Instagram is used more and more by researchers. It uses images and videos as a medium and therefore is perfect if you want to showcase for example microscopy images. 

So you see that there are loads of different platforms you can use to increase your network, using a more passive, active, or mixed approach.


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