When I was a young academic I read a chapter by Edwin Boring who argued that marketing academic work is important. He talked about some famous ideas in science that are attributed to a single person (e.g., Charles Darwin for evolution) when other people had the same idea around the same time. He concluded that the reason Darwin is remembered is that he was the better marketer. Boring’s idea was compelling but he didn’t really explain how to market your research, just that you should do it. In the digital age we have amazing tools to do just that, and the best one just might be a website.
My Introduction to Websites
One day in the early 90s my office next-door-neighbor, Mike Brannick showed me his latest creation–a personal website. The site was a place where he posted course materials that his students could download. I was instantly hooked. Mike showed me how he did it, and I was off and running. At first I just posted course materials, but I soon realized I could use it for other things. I was getting a lot of email requests for my job satisfaction scale, so I created a section for that. Then when someone emailed me I could just reply with the URL. It occurred to me that this was a great resource for personal branding, so I added more content, such as a self-paced online SAS course and links to books I had written. It grew into a central hub where I kept things relevant to my research and teaching. In 2019 I created the paulspector.com website and really got into digital marketing when I started blogging.
Market Your Research
There are many ways that we can promote our work. A few tips.
- Make your work accessible: Most of us aim for established outlets meaning our work exists behind pay walls. This is fine for people who are at universities with subscriptions, but many people do not have such access. You can make your work accessible by responding to requests for copies that you might receive. You can also create a free Researchgate account and share your work from there. The great thing about Researchgate is that once you create a profile, it automatically finds and lists your work.
- Present your work at conferences: Presenting your work is a good way to gain attention. There are many choices depending on your discipline and the nature of the work. In I-O psychology and Management, some of the most popular are Academy of Management, Society for I-O Psychology, and Southern Management Association. I do work on worker health, safety, and well-being, and present at Work, Stress and Health that is put on by Society for Occupational Health Psychology.
- Give talks: Since COVID-19 schools have been asking people to give virtual talks via MS Teams or Zoom. Contact people you know at other places and let them know you are available. Spend some time to develop a talk or two on a topic that highlights your research. You can present the same talk at different places. You can focus the talk on a study or two, but I like to give a talk on a topic where I weave in several of my own studies.
- Blog about your work. A great way to draw attention to your work is to write blog articles about it.
How to Market Your Research with a Website
Once the research is done and the paper is published, the work has only just begun. That paper is just words on a page until it has impact on the academic world and the broader public. There is so much academic content being produced that having your work noticed is challenging. A personal website can be a tool that helps your work stand out.
Most universities provide a website for faculty. This is a good place for faculty to start by adding and organizing content that features their research. It is free, and in many places there are web professionals who can add the content so there is no need to learn how. I began my journey with websites this way. After retirement from the psychology department I created a private website where I expanded the assessment section to include an archive that contains scales developed by others. It also became the platform for my blog. Of the two, the assessment section drives the most traffic, but the blog enables me to promote work as it comes out. Each time a new acceptance shows up on the publisher’s website, I blog about it.
I created a private website to give me more flexibility and features. I enjoyed working on my university site, so it was time to up my game and graduate from sticking HTML documents on the university UNIX server to building a state-of-the-art WordPress site. There are many companies that host such sites (mine is on GoDaddy), and many offer management services so you don’t have to learn WordPress yourself. But there are other ways to post blog content. One of the easiest is to use LinkedIn to post articles. A LinkedIn account is free and is easy to use. There are many platform options that do not require you to learn WordPress for your blog.
Keep in mind a blog article is not a mini-research paper with references and technical details. It is an accessible overview for a general audience. The purpose is to get eyes on your work to educate the public (including practitioners) and promote your new paper to other academics. In my blogs I choose 2 or 3 findings from a paper and focus on those, offering a simple overview of what was done and found. I rarely mention statistics that are more complex that correlations and mean comparisons. There is a link to the paper on the publisher’s site, always in the first paragraph, where readers can find the abstract and full paper.
Scientific communication in the digital age is about more than just getting your work into high impact journals. There is so much work coming out all the time that you need to market your research to make it stand out. A website is a digital tool that can increase your impact both inside and outside of the academic world.
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