How to Enhance the Impact of Your Research
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While we all know the importance of publishing widely in terms of moving forward in an academic career, what is sometimes left out of the discussion is how to make sure that your research has an actual impact in the community it is addressing, or in the world at large. If you would like your research to be read beyond the gates of the ivory tower, you need to know how to effectively promote yourself and your work.
If you have just published an article about which you feel extremely passionate, the idea that it will likely just become a citation in someone’s dissertation down the line can be a bit disconcerting. As this post from the London School of Economics and Political Science points out, the best strategy for creating a lasting impact is targeted and sustained knowledge exchange. In this article, we will delve into four key areas to focus on in order to create an impact with your research – regardless of whether your goal is simply to expand your readership or to directly target policymakers in order to advocate evidence-based change.
In order for the media to report on your research, they have to view it as “newsworthy.” Although you might find your research groundbreaking, you need to use concrete strategies for conveying your message to other people.
As this piece from the Research to Action Helpdesk suggests, you should write multiple media specific single-page summaries of your work. These should take context, audience and type of media into account and frame your work to suit these factors. A well-written, targeted press release can go a long way, particularly if you’ve taken the time to find the individual email addresses of journalists in a relevant field. The more press releases and media summaries you send out, the more likely it is that your research will get picked up as a story.
- Online Visibility
Beyond traditional media, social media and online academic networks are important platforms for putting your work out there. How many times have you looked at an article simply because one of your friends posted it somewhere in your social network? By adding keywords, captions, titles, subheadings and clear abstracts to each of your articles, they are more likely to be picked up by and spread across social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.
Uploading your work onto platforms such as Google Scholar, Pubmed and Academia.edu will boost your audience substantially, while upping your chances of being widely read, cited and ultimately recognized as a scholar in your field. People both within and outside of academia use open access repositories, meaning that your work has a much better chance of being read than if it’s only available through a fee-based platform, a point emphasized in this webpage offered by Oxford University.
Another option for getting your work out there and making connections with others in your field is to start a blog about your research. Many top academics also run highly successful blogs, without which they may never have gained acclaim outside of their specific disciplines. While you may not become a #1 internet sensation overnight, a well-written and well-promoted blog can gain you a quick following and a broad audience.
Most academics know how important the networking aspect of conferences can be. Beyond simply engaging with like-minded researchers on topics of mutual interest, you can also call on such connections to help promote your latest research in relevant channels worldwide. Forging exchange-based partnerships with researchers on a similar level as you is one good idea – they can promote your work and you theirs, allowing for mutual benefit and broadened networks.
An article from Washington University in St. Louis offers many concrete tips for disseminating research, including through outreach visits to relevant institutions or universities, where you can offer seminars, give lectures or take part in discussions. By promoting your research you are also promoting your ideas, making further connections and getting your name out there.
The best way to create a strong impact in the community on which your research centers is to engage directly with policymakers – be it at the local, regional or national level. The first step is to write a policy brief, but you can’t stop there if you really want your voice heard.
Find advocates in policymakers’ offices who can understand your work and create relevant linkages for those at the top. Many governmental offices have people specifically assigned to work with experts, and you should find such a person and discuss with them why your research meshes with the interests of the individual policymaker, making clear how you can help advance their position while aiding your cause. Simply contacting a policymaker directly is also an option, but be sure to emphasize your credentials and offer a clear and direct message.
Finally, teaming up with other researchers in your area is one of the best ways to make your voice heard. Think tanks and international organizations can provide a great place for networking with other experts in your field who already have a platform for addressing policymakers and the public. As this Science Magazine article underscores, the more people on your team, the greater chance you will have of making a true impact.
Photo credit: throgers
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