Promoting Research Visibility & Expanding Your Community

David Carless

“The best way to expand your network is to help other people” Carrigan, 2020, p. 57.

When we publish good quality research, what happens next? Just moving onto the next piece of work is probably a sub-optimal strategy. After all, it takes so long to conceptualize, implement, write up and publish a piece of research, surely it is worth investing a few more hours in enhancing the readership for the research. Particularly if you have strived to produce something of high quality: making a clear, original and significant contribution to the field.

A reasonable proposition is that the more visible our quality outputs, the more esteem we attract: citations, invitations, and appreciation from department heads, deans and senior management. And also, hopefully more personal satisfaction. I suppose an opposing argument is that this is all too performative, and maybe we should just go to the beach, do some Pilates or enjoy some fine wine. Hopefully promoting your research and enjoying yourself are not mutually exclusive.

What kinds of (humble) promotion activities might we engage in? And might we promote our colleagues and network as much as ourselves? Or are we already so busy, that doing more is unattractive?

There are a number of formats for disseminating your research. Conference presentations are an obvious and well-worn part of community building, networking and sharing our work. When you go to a conference, what constitutes effective collaboration or networking? I’m not sure that this topic is adequately aired. One obvious strategy is to use the coffee breaks to strike up conversations with like-minded others, or elicit feedback from those who attended your presentation. Identifying a favorite conference in your specialist area, and attending it frequently might sustain contacts and collaboration.

In what follows, I focus on blogs and podcasts as strategies for research sharing. Both of these strategies involve communicating our research to a broad audience so require complementary skills to writing journal articles, what universities often call Knowledge Exchange.

Blogging and podcasting are part of establishing a wider readership for our work.  The LSE Impact blog is good value with a wide reach: one of my favorite posts suggests five dimensions of an attractive paper: counter-intuitive, foundational, new approach, quality/exemplarity or insightful/practical.

The FreshEd podcast hosted by Will Brehm has a primary focus on international and comparative education, whilst also including a range of other interesting material. Talking HE with Santanu Vasant is a regular look at the higher education scene.

In Education Dialogues, we combine blogging and podcasting with contributors having the option of a written or spoken post. Scholars might choose to blog and podcast about articles that have a particular personal meaning or satisfaction to them: not just getting an article accepted but making a solid contribution that moves the literature forward. 

I guess many researchers aspire to quality AND quantity, but not all projects or collaborations turn out as well as we hoped for at the outset. I’m increasingly drawn towards quality even more than quantity, and after all REF (Research Excellence Framework) or RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) only requires four high quality publications over a 6-year period.

The principle of quality over quantity probably extends from publications to promoting your own work i.e. try to do a small number of things well rather than many things somewhat haphazardly (obviously not always that easy). This might mean focusing on a particular promotion strategy or a single social media platform on a regular basis, rather than spreading yourself thinly.

And so, what about social media? Many of us have ResearchGate and LinkedIn profiles but what constitutes effective engagement in these platforms? A few of us are Twitter (X) enthusiasts, many of us are not, and there are a range of other options.

For me, Twitter enables one to keep in touch with a diverse international community of scholars, and Hong Kong sometimes feels a long way for my natural communities in the UK and Australia. If we just post about our own research do we seem too self-absorbed or narcissistic? When I joined Twitter in 2014, and was trying to figure out how it worked, I read a post that argued only 1 in 10 tweets should be about yourself, and the majority of your posts should be highlighting other interesting work within your field of interest. That struck me as a good principle because promoting the work of your friends, colleagues and academic contacts forms an important part of academic citizenship.

So next time you publish a good paper, think about how you can stimulate more of a readership for your work. And do the same for your colleagues and community, promoting their research as much as your own.

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