I know what you’re thinking, self-promotion is for Instagram stars and Youtubers, not for researchers. As someone who types tweets out before reading-editing-stressing-re-reading then chickens out of publishing them, I completely understand that researchers might feel a bit squeamish at the idea of launching themselves and their research ‘out there’. But, as the awesome Inger Mewburn (aka the Thesis Whisperer) recently reminded us in a Hive event So, you’re finishing your PhD in a pandemic… what’s next?, the current job market for graduating doctors is, what’s a good way to say this, not at its best. A looming financial crisis is going to put a further squeeze on funding and resources, which will likely mean opportunities will be fewer and they’ll attract greater competition.
Inger is not all doom and gloom (though some of the stats were hard to stomach), and actually sees the coming uncertainty as a chance to change the way we think about PhDs and academia. In her blog post Where I call bullshit on the way we do the PhD, Inger reminds researchers that a doctorate gives you a tonne of really cool skills and that these skills have value both inside and outside of academia. In encouraging PhD students to think outside the box when imagining a future career, she suggests you “think of yourself as a freelance expert gun-for-hire”. Whether you have a professorship in your sights, are excited about the variety that a ‘portfolio career’ could offer or aren’t yet sure where you want your doctorate to take you, thinking about building your research profile is a practical step that will help you whichever path you choose.
I’ve used the word ‘building’ which perhaps suggests a lot of effort. But, the steps I’m going to outline shouldn’t weigh heavy on your workload. Steps 1-3 are especially easy and quick actions that can have a big impact. Step 4 comes with an ‘yellow alert’ level procrastination warning; there is a risk of getting sucked into a social media rabbit hole, but the benefits certainly outweigh the risks.
Ok, so get ready to shout about how awesome you are.
1. Elementary my dear – what’s on your profile?
(edit your Elements profile)
All Sussex researchers have an Elements profile. It’s where you can add details about yourself and your research, including details of your publications. For doctoral researchers, this profile is automatically set to private, but you can make it public easily
3. Let’s get something out in the open
(Make your research open access if you can)
I could talk about this all day, so I’ll try and keep it brief. Open Access is awesome. If you’ve ever hit a pesky paywall then you know! The idea is to make publicly funded research available to anyone with an internet connection, for free. This replaces the traditional model where UK universities donate time (yours), labour (yours) and public money (yours) to the production of peer-reviewed scholarly work (yours), only to have it sold back to them via large journal subscription fees (brace yourself……estimated at £192 million per year).
There’s also a ton of benefits to the author; the potential readership of an Open Access article is significantly greater than one where the full-text is restricted to subscribers. The more people read your work, the more people cite your work and the more people digest your ideas. Win, win, win.
And surprisingly, for something that is undoubtedly A Good Thing, it can be pretty straightforward for researchers to make happen. For doctoral researchers, I recommend Going Green. This means self-archiving an author accepted manuscript (so the final copy of your article, after peer-review and editing but before the publisher does any typesetting). In your Elements profile, you can create a record for the new item and then upload your manuscript. Boom! It’s that easy.
Of course, there are other ways of making work Open Access that involve more complex procedures and policies but the Library has your back; we can help you if a publisher starts talking about Gold open access (the one where we pay to make it open) and we’ll also check the manuscripts that you upload, to ensure there’s no copyright concerns.
In addition to articles, you could upload book chapters and conference papers (the latter often being tricky to locate elsewhere), plus the Library has a data repository, should you want to explore making your data open too.
See the Library’s Open Access page for more information.
(twitter = work, honestly)
OK, so I did issue a procrastination warning here. There are a lot of hilarious cats on twitter and they will distract you. You need to be strong. You can resist.
Twitter really can be an amazing tool for researchers.
First up, it’s a great platform for disseminating your research. If your work is Open Access (because, Step 3) then there really are no limits to how widely you could share your work. We can’t all be Neil deGrasse Tyson, with a whopping 14.1 million followers (@neiltyson), so don’t expect miracles over night but if you consistently share work and make connections, you will build up a following.
And, if you’ve followed steps 1 and 2, the people finding your work on twitter will be able to find your other work, because it’s now all conveniently in one place. You can link your Elements profile to your twitter account too, to drive traffic both ways.
Twitter isn’t just about sharing publications; you can share ideas and get feedback from peers. Engaging with research communities on twitter (such as #twitterstorians, #PhDChat #WomenInSTEM) helps to build your research network, and doesn’t even involve having to make awkward small talk over the coffee dispenser at a conference. It’s not all academics either, you could connect with practitioners, business owners, policy makers and mysterious wealthy benefactors (maybe not the last one), and developing your networks increases the potential opportunities for whatever it is you might be looking for.
There you have it, four simple steps for firing up your research profile. I hope you are feeling bold and brave rather than bored and blanched. If you have any questions get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org and if you want to talk to someone from the careers team about exploring life post PhD you can contact them via their web page.
Bethany Logan is the Academic Services Librarian: Research & Scholarship, at the University of Sussex. She runs a workshop called Understanding Publication Metrics that looks at a number of tools, including twitter, for exploring the impact of research. The workshop is part of the Researcher Development Programme, which will run again from September. Her own twitter game is Not So Good.