Monday, 4 January 2016

How to reach a wider audience for your research - SciDev.Net


  • How to reach a wider audience for your research

    Juan Pablo Alperin, Alessandra Bordini


Speed read

  • Altmetrics tools allow you to track research impact and reach people in new ways
  • You can see where your work is discussed, and so understand your audience
  • But the real benefits come when you use the tools to co-produce knowledge
In today’s age of knowledge abundance, the scholarly community is
turning its attention to the use of social media channels and other
online platforms. Scholars have been increasingly integrating these
tools into their everyday work, creating enormous potential to capture
the digital traces of their research.

Not surprisingly, then, in recent years academics have shown a growing
interest in non-traditional ways of evaluating their scholarly ‘impact’.
These altmetrics, short for alternative metrics, allow researchers to
gauge the impact and reach of their research in the social web beyond
traditional citation counting.

While much of the conversation around altmetrics has become about
alternative measures for research ‘impact’, researchers (especially
those from developing countries) would do well to focus on using
altmetrics to take advantage of what social media and online platforms
have to offer: the opportunity to reach, analyse and engage with the
social and public dimensions of scholarly work.

Here we offer practical advice on how to make the most of the
opportunities provided by altmetrics. Much of this advice overlaps with
other tips on how to measure your research impact — but only because, to
track and connect with your audience, it must be able to find you, and
you must be able to find it.


Make your research discoverable

Make your research as widely and openly accessible as possible by humans and machines.

Publish in open access journals

Publish your research in open access (OA) journals, thus making it
immediately available to anyone with an internet connection, and
removing financial barriers. For example, in Latin America as much as 25 per cent of OA journal downloads come from outside of universities. 

Self-archive your work

Put as many articles as possible in institutional or subject-specific
repositories. This ensures that your work is openly accessible, even if a
journal charges for access.

Most publishers allow self-archiving by default. Check the SHERPA/RoMEO database of journal policies if you are unsure. 

Make use of preprints

Post preprints in places such as arXiv, bioRxiv, peerJ PrePrints, Figshare, Zenodo, The Winnower or in any institutional or subject-specific repositories. This will enable you to circulate your ideas more quickly, give you more visibility, and perhaps translate into more citations.

Publish all your outputs

Put all your research outputs in places like Slideshare, for slides; Data Dryad, for data; GitHub, for code; The Winnower, for blogs and proposals; or multi-purpose services, such as Figshare or Zenodo, for a range of outputs.

Curate your metadata

Fill in as much information as possible when submitting or uploading
your data, including a descriptive title, abstract, and keywords of
interest to your target audience. This makes your work discoverable to
machines as well as humans. 


Track your reach

Identify who your work is reaching, and the places where it is being
shared, discussed and cited. This gives you a clearer sense of your
audience, enabling you to tell richer stories to engage them.

Make use of (persistent) identifiers

All online content is assigned at least one digital identifier that
allows it to be easily located. This type of metadata is especially
important for tracking the performance and reach of scholarly output.
Prominent examples of such digital identifiers include DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers), PubMed IDs, arXiv IDs and URLs.

Persistent identifiers such as DOIs are particularly useful for
measuring online activity because they are designed to remain pointing
to a research object even if it “moves” to another place on the web
(say, if a journal changes publishers or switches online platform). 

Keep a record of all your outputs

Keep track of all the identifiers where your work can be found. Not
everything you publish will have a persistent identifier and your work
may end up in multiple locations, so tracking only permanent identifiers
will miss some metrics. Keep a private record of everything (e.g. in a
spreadsheet) that you can refer back to in the future. 

Set up profiles that track your reach for you

Set up profiles to nurture your online identity and track your work. Both ImpactStory and Google Scholar
are handy. Google Scholar will help you find citations to your work on
the scholarly web, and ImpactStory will uncover mentions of your work on
the social web.

Revisit your work regularly

Use your profiles, and list of identifiers and URLs, to revisit your
work periodically. Many publishers now display article-level metrics
(including downloads, citations and altmetrics) on a published article’s
page. If not, you can often use the Altmetric Bookmarklet to see metrics.

Regularly check comments sections for conversations about your work. 

Set up alerts to notify you of mentions

Automate the process of checking for updates., for example, will allow you to set up alerts so you receive an email whenever articles of interest are mentioned in the places they track.

For those URLs not tracked by altmetrics providers, you can set up Google Alerts (make your name, article title and URL the search terms). Google Scholar Alerts inform you whenever your articles are cited. 

Search Twitter following publication

Search for the URLs associated with your work on Twitter. It’s the social media platform with the most scholarly activity.

Concentrate your searches in the first few weeks after publication (at
least once a week, since Twitter searches only the past few days). 

Note who mentions your work and where

This will give you a glimpse of how your work is being interpreted and used by both academics and the public.  


Connect with your audience

Your audience will grow naturally once you begin to engage with
individuals from within and beyond academia, and also within and beyond
national boundaries. 

Be active on social media

Rather than just promoting yourself, become a member of a community with
shared interests. Get familiar with its needs, lexicon and practices.

Do this by opening a Twitter account, joining Facebook groups,
commenting on blogs, or contributing to a group on the social reference
manager, Mendeley — wherever your audience spends most of its time online. 

Reach out to readers

Start a conversation with your readers. If those interested in your work
are not active on social media, then an email conversation, a Google Hangout, or a Skype call may be an alternative. Even a brief exchange can be sufficient to trigger a meaningful conversation. 

Engage with new audiences

Identify other academics, practitioners, citizen scientists, funders and
patient groups who might be interested in your work, or who might be
affected by its implications.  

Speak at conferences and colloquia 

Find new audiences by speaking publicly. Social media and online
channels offer the opportunity to engage with those far away, while
academic and public speaking engagements expose your work in person. 


Grow and nurture your online presence

Make your research as widely and openly accessible as possible by humans and machines.

Use a consistent online identity 

Aim for consistency when registering online, posting work or engaging in
conversations. It has to be obvious to an outsider that all the work
belongs to the same person.

This means always using the same variant of your name, the same username/handle and similar photos.  

Set up an ORCiD

Claim your Open Researcher and Contributor ID (better known simply as ORCiD). It is designed to combat the challenge of distinguishing between author names.

You will be assigned a permanent identifier (like a DOI for yourself)
and be given control of an ORCiD profile that can serve as an online CV
including all your research outputs, past and present affiliations, and
education history. This can be the “glue for all your research services.

Set up other online profiles

Go beyond Google Scholar and ImpactStory profiles. Academic social networking sites like, ResearchGate, and Mendeley may be useful for connecting with other researchers.

Use your institution’s faculty page as these usually appear high on
search results, and consider setting up a personal webpage too.

But be wary of “profile fatigue”. It can be exhausting and time consuming to keep many profiles up to date, and neglected profiles make a bad impression. 

Write a blog

One of the best ways to have a strong online presence and develop an audience is to write regularly. Academic blogs are a place to sound out ideas, share thoughts about your field, and promote your work. Blogging platforms like make it quick and easy to get up and running with a blog. 

Set up a personal domain name 

If you are setting up your personal website or blog, you may want to
consider buying and registering a domain name that includes your name
(e.g. Domain names can be bought for as little as
US$10 a year.

Share your identity

Indicate where you can be found online at every reasonable opportunity.
For example, be sure to include your Twitter handle in presentations,
and add links to some of your profiles to your email signature and
business card.
The ability to connect with your existing, potential and desired
audiences is by far the biggest opportunity that social media and online
platforms offer researchers in developing countries. You can benefit
from demonstrating the reach of your work, and by telling rich stories
about how your work has impacted others.

However, go one step further and truly take advantage of the social and
public affordances of online platforms. By engaging with audiences, you
many enter into conversations that lead to the co-creation of knowledge.

This means not just a larger audience and higher metrics for the
researchers themselves, but better and more relevant research for
developing regions.


Learn more

Open access

Open Access: A Quick Guide for Researchers | The Canadian Science Publishing Blog (2015)

Open Access | Peter Suber (2012)

Open Access Publishing Toolkit | York University Libraries (2015)

HowOpenIsIt?: Open Access Spectrum (OAS) guide | SPARC, PLOS, and OASPA (2014)

Open Access Spectrum (OAS) Evaluation Tool | SPARC (2015)

Research visibility guides

The 30-Day Impact Challenge: The Ultimate Guide to Raising the Profile of your Research | Stacy Konkiel (2014)

Taking Control of Your Research Visibility | Marc L. Greenberg and Ada Emmett (2014)

Increase the Visibility and Impact of Your Research | Jisc (2013)

Academics’ Online Presence: A Four-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Visibility | Sarah Goodier and Laura Czerniewicz (2012)

Social media guides

Reading List: Using Social Media for Research Collaboration and Public Engagement | LSE Impact Blog (2015)

Social Media for Research | Newcastle University Library (2015)

Using Twitter in University Research, Teaching and Impact Activities | LSE Impact Blog (2011)

Social Media: A Guide for Researchers | Alan Cann, Konstantia Dimitriou, and Tristram Hooley (2011)

From the authors (on altmetrics in developing countries)

The Public Impact of Latin America’s Approach to Open Access | Juan Pablo Alperin (2015)

Altmetrics Could Enable Scholarship From Developing Countries to Receive Due Recognition | Juan Pablo Alperin (2014)


Ask Not What Altmetrics Can Do for You, But What Altmetrics Can Do for Developing Countries | Juan Pablo Alperin (2013)

Other works cited

A Social Networking Site is not an Open Access Repository | Katie Fortney and Justin Gonder (2015)

Altmetrics: Value All Research Products | Heather Piwowar (2013)

An Antidote to Futility: Why Academics (and Students) Should Take Blogging / Social Media Seriously | Duncan Green (2015)

Do Altmetrics Work? Twitter and Ten Other Social Web Services | Mike Thelwall, Stefanie Haustein, Vincent Larivière,and Cassidy R. Sugimoto (2013)

Peer Review, Preprints and the Speed of Science | Stephen Curry (2015)

Researcher #Profilefatigue – What it is and Why it’s Exhausting! | Elizabeth Allen (2014)

Ten Things You Need to Know About ORCID Right Now | Impactstory Blog (2014)

What Does Academia Edu’s Success Mean For Open Access? The Data-Driven World of Search Engines and Social Networking | Gary Hall ( 2015)

 Juan Pablo Alperin: Assistant professor
in the Publishing Program and Research Associate with the Public
Knowledge Project at Simon Fraser University. @juancommander

Alessandra Bordini: Research assistant and graduate student in the Master of Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University. @agbordini

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How to reach a wider audience for your research - SciDev.Net

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