My goal is to make science communication as efficient as possible for scientists. Therefore I have gathered three online setups, that I believe every active scientific researcher should have. It should take you a few hours to set up and after that it is up to you how much effort you put into maintenance.
Why should you do this? Because whether you want it or not, right now you are branding yourself online. So you might as well take control of it and ensure that your online presence matches your scientific profile.
Basically, you must answer these questions via online tools:
1) Who are you?
2) What do you do?
3) How can I follow you?
Remember you can always contact me, if you have questions about scientist branding or science communication.
Here is what you need:
# 1 – A Website to Introduce Yourself
The internet is swirling with information about you. Maybe you are active on various platforms. Maybe you have a profile on your preferred scientific network (Inspire, ResearchGate, etc). Maybe you have not been online since that time you won a medal in a soccer competition in the 7th grade. The information about you is out there and it comes up when your name is put in the search engine.
I recommend scientists to make a personal website and here is why: Your website will act as your up-to-date information no matter where you work and which platforms you use to publish your work. If and when a journalist, future collaborator or grant committee searches for you online, you should make sure they easily come across the correct information immediately.
A basic scientist website could contain
- Basic info, contact details and professional experience.
- List of publications.
- List of teaching and outreach.
- Link to your online presence (social media, research databases, etc).
Make sure to have a simple design rather than a complex design, especially if you do not plan on spending too much time on maintenance. Keep a simple color scale and put in a few nice pictures of yourself (if you do not have any, ask someone to take a neutral photo of you).
Examples of scientist websites (that I like):
Astronomer Magnus Persson – vilhelm.nu
Biologist Samantha Yammine – samanthayammine.com
Physicist Dianna Cowern – physicsgirl.org
# 2 – A Blog to Publish Your Popular Science Articles
You need a blog to translate your scientific publication to ‘normal language’. Yes, this will take a bit of time to prepare, but it will be worth it. Every time you publish a scientific article to your field’s journal, you create an outreach article for the public at the same time and put it on your blog. The outreach article should be no longer than 1-2 pages and contain zero equations, but I do recommend putting in some nice graphics, such as creative and intuitive versions of your plots.
There are several benefits of writing a popular science article about your science paper:
- You share your work directly with the public.
- You make your work accessible for journalists. (Sure, some journalists can read a scientific paper directly, but most times your work is too specific to really be understood in all its details, also for a journalist).
- You ensure a proper interpretation of your scientific work. (Also for grant committees, university boards, etc.)
- You have one place to refer the public to regarding your work (and thereby avoid explaining the same over and over again).
There are plenty of platforms that allow you to build a blog. I recommend incorporating the blog directly into your website. WordPress is good for this and as a bonus it is also free to use.
Examples of outreach blogs (that I like):
Biologist Sophie Arthur – sophtalksscience.com
Biologist Jon Hanson – itsokaytobesmart.com
# 3 – A Twitter Account to Share Your Work
This is your path to the online community of journalists, science communicators, etc. Of all the social media platforms, I think this one is the most easy to use. You use it to share your scientific publications as well as any outreach articles you may be related to. Throw in a few hashtags and you are good to go.
Create a Twitter user, preferably with a name that matches your website. This gives your online presence are more wholesome expression.
Examples of updates to publish:
- When you publish a scientific article. Maybe you can tag (@username) your collaborators or your institution.
- If you appear (or want to appear) in the media. See which national hashtag is associated with science in your country. In Denmark it is typically #dkvid for science, #dkastro for astronomy, etc., but for your country it will be different.
This way you are present and active on social media, but without risking too much work. You can schedule a time slot of 15 min every two weeks to update your account. Fast and efficient.
There is of course plenty of opportunities to engage more in online discussions and opinion sharing on Twitter, but given that you are reading this post I am going to assume that this is not for you (at least not right now).
When you have your platforms set up, you need to do a limited amount of work: Update your blog with an outreach article when you publish new work, update your website when you change position and tweet your work to your followers.
For design tips I encourage you to use the same style on all platforms. This includes profile photo, language, cover, etc. and will give you a more recognizable brand that you can build on in the future.
Good luck – and if you want, let me know how it goes!