The old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is a lie. It’s what you know and who you know that counts. Particularly in research. The foundation of research is knowledge and solid experimental designs and definitely you need to know your stuff. But there’s also no point doing marvellous research if your data is never published, never read or never cited. It’s also now essential to know people to get the collaborations to get the grants to start research.
This is where self-promotion and networking become critical. Happily there are many avenues for making your work stand out in a data-drenched world.
Believe it or not, researchers will pay attention to mainstream media. This can be a really useful way of telling people about the great work you’re doing as well as hearing about what other research is out there. A snippet on the nightly news, a feature on a radio station or a stint on one of the science shows can get you noticed by someone outside your field in areas that you may not even know exist.
The best way is to pitch a story to a journalist. Preferably use an angle about something that is currently being discussed in the media to which your work somehow – no matter how loosely – relates.
Also let a journalist know if you’re doing something that just sounds awesome. Like using the Synchrotron for wine research, for example. Or going on an expedition to the Arctic tundra to find new bioactive peptides that may be the next cure for heart disease.
A media release after you’ve published your research in a peer-reviewed journal can still be a good way to go but put some thought into the timing of the media release to get you bigger bang for you buck. It may be worth holding off on releasing the news to coincide with a big event or conference in your field at a time when more people in the field are likely to be tuning into the mainstream media.
Published a paper recently? Tweet about it! Doing something cool? Take a photo and Instagram it! There are so many avenues for social media it is a missed opportunity not to utilize them.
The more people know that you’re working in a particular area the more likely they are to seek out your work amongst the – probably – hundreds of papers in the field. And the more people who read your work, the more likely your paper is to get cited.
So do it, start a Twitter account…and use it!
Publishing in a peer-reviewed journal is the benchmark standard of any research scientist and close attention is paid to nuanced differences in citation indices. Yet non-peered reviewed publications invite a wider readership and can therefore also be of value.
These publications can be industry journals, broader science journals like New Scientist, and even society publications for members, such the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s rag, Chemistry Australia. It is well worth getting mentioned in these types of journals to get more traffic to your peer-reviewed publications.
Other, less conventional publications are also of value. An industry blog can have a greater audience than a printed publication and some popular science sites such as Sciengist.com are good for broadening your readership. It is worth keeping track of which blogs are being written in your field and who is reading them.
Crazy, I know. As well as scientific society publications, annual general meetings of these organisations can be a great way to diversify your networks and mix with people in slightly different fields. The broader your society memberships, the broader your potential collaborations and the happier the potential funding body.
The biggest perk of working in science is the international conference. Even attending an interstate or even local conference is nothing to sneeze at. These are the biggest gatherings of researchers and the best and most important networking events. Networking is essential. Tips for doing it right can be found here.
It is always important to speak to people in your field but also really interesting to speak to people outside your field. Poster sessions are a great way of finding out what other people are doing and why. The more people you can connect with at a conference the more likely useful ideas and collaborations will come your way.
All this networking and getting noticed takes time. But it will be time well spent if a chance encounter leads to another citation, new discovery, or even that elusive successful grant application.