The Internet gives us opportunities to quickly share our work with a global audience. These new possibilities can help communicate our work with an audience that previously may have never considered your work in the past.
This is especially important as the primary information source for many individuals is the Internet, especially social networking spaces.
How many of your ideas are available online in a digitally native form? How much of this content is developed and approved by you?
A quick note, I do not consider uploading a PDF to Academia.Edu, ResearchGate, or your own website as disseminating your work in novel and engaging ways.
This article by Ross-Hellauer and colleagues (2020) shares a list of ten simple rules for innovative dissemination of research. I think it provides actionable advice for making your work approachable and accessible. The ten rules are also great opportunities to expand the focus on your blog as you make an impact on society.
Rule 1: Get the basics right
You also need to know how the Internet works. I work with tons of individuals and organizations to help expand their digital footprint. They’ll share out a news brief to a private listerv and then wonder why no one saw it. Use digitally native habits
You need to also have a plan as you begin.
- Define Objectives – Think granularly as you indicate what do you hope to achieve as you share online.
- Map Your Audience – What do you want to share with your audience? What do you want them to do with this information? What is their preferred communication channel?
- Target/Frame Your Messages – Create content that identifies what they might want or need to hear from you, rather than what you want to tell them.
- Create a Dissemination Plan – Combine the knowledge of the audience, need, content, and appropriate tools to reach your identified audience.
Keep the Right Profile
Academia is seen as a prestige economy where prestige indicates a particular kind of market, one in which what is recognized and traded does not necessarily have a direct financial value.
Prestige can be accumulated and is associated with university research rather than teaching or service. Through their research, institutions and academics are heavily engaged in prestige-maximizing activities, such as publishing in top journals or seeking selective grants.
Establishing a prominent and unique identity online and offline is essential to the accumulation of prestige. Use websites, multimodal content, and social networks to connect with others.
Lastly, do not to come across as a ‘scientific robot’, and make sure to communicate the more human personality side of research.
The Internet is a networked, collaborative space.
Don’t just broadcast. Invite others to participate and collaborate with you and your work.
Open Science for Impact
It is rooted in a philosophy of equitable participation and transparency, allowing other to use, examine, reuse, remix, share, and replicate your work.
Use digital spaces and open licenses (Creative Commons) to make this a reality.
Remix Traditional Outputs
Complement your traditional research outputs with digitally literate versions.
As an example, put out a blog post or two explaining your work in a different context, or to a different audience. A great way to make this happen is a blog post that shares a “Director’s Cut” of your publication. Show the original manuscript. Share revisions made. Embed data, images, videos, etc.
Have a webinar or podcast in which you talk through your work. Sometimes just talking through things is much more approachable. To make this a bit easier…academics frequently prepare and present at conferences. Just record and upload this and share.
Lately I’ve been looking for opportunities to create short, visually literate examples of my research and findings. This could include infographics, short Instagram or TikTok style videos, or annotated GIFs.
Take your work outside of the ivory tower.
Sign up to present your work at local groups or TEDx talks. Hit the road and talk at community-based events that relate to your topic and expertise.
These are sometimes hosted by local libraries as they’ll gladly have scholar come in and present their work and/or ideas.
This is a great way to see how much your research and ideas impact the lives of the common person.
As a researcher of digital environments, it’s often a challenge to describe/display multimodal content in a traditional publication. Most publications are heavy on the text. They’ll embed some tables and figures, but even those are very static.
Include visual elements that can act as attractive means to help your audience understand and interpret your research. Take some time and use digital or analog tools to produce displays that make your content easier to understand.
This could be some of the examples shared earlier. It could also include examples using science cartoons or comics.
Acknowledge and amplify diverse voices as you share your work online. Create a healthy and welcoming environment for participation.
Have a code of conduct, diversity statement, and contributing guidelines on your digital hub as you share your work.
The 2017 Progression Framework Benchmarking Report of the Science Council made recommendations on how to make progress on diversity and inclusion in science. A strategy and action plan for diversity should developed that requires action from all members included. This strategy and action plan for diversity should be included in a wide range of scientific activities, outreach, education, and training.
Find the Right Tools
There are some incredible tools available to help you share your work with others. Some of these tools will be rather costly, some are free. Some will require a certain amount of training to build up proficiency.
The article links to the OpenUP Hub and indicates some specific tools to conduct the following:
- Visualizing data
- Sharing notebooks, protocols, and workflows
- Crowdsourcing and collaboration
- Profiles and networking
- Organizing events
- Outreach to wider public
- Archive and share
Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate
Assess your sharing and dissemination plans to see if you’re being successful.
You can use a variety of questionnaires, interviews, observations, and assessments with participants to see how things are working.
Keep in mind, if you’re openly sharing your resources online, you may not see immediate dividends as people may be lurking or consuming your content without directly notifying you.
In addition, I’m a believer that work like this is valuable as it doesn’t just build your prestige. More importantly, it builds your credibility and relevance. At some point, when someone comes across your work in any context, having an online hub where you share your work over time, allows them to go back and see the trajectory and impact of your work.
I absolutely acknowledge that scholars, researchers, and educators are very busy. This post is not in any way an attempt to get you to do more.
But, if you are interested in the possibilities, the article shares a ton of opportunities to engage with society through new technologies.
Please read, share, and cite the full publication. The authors make many points I did not include in this post.
As they indicate in the article:
“Individuals are not just ‘empty vessels’ to be filled with new knowledge, and having a deeper contextual understanding of your audience can make a real difference to the success of your engagement practices.”
Citation: Ross-Hellauer T, Tennant JP, Banelytė V, Gorogh E, Luzi D, Kraker P, et al. (2020) Ten simple rules for innovative dissemination of research. PLoS Comput Biol 16(4): e1007704. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007704