How to be proactive when amplifying research papers
Conferences might be the first thought, but there are many options for furthering your paper’s reach – and they usually require you to take the lead
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Research papers are quite the labour of love. You can spend years coming up with an idea, coaxing it out of your brain into a fully fleshed thing, conducting painstaking research, writing it up and then digging in for the inevitable battle with Reviewer 2. But after all that time and effort, what comes next?
Well, usually you’ll want to get your paper in front of as many people as possible – after all, where’s the fun in doing cool research if you don’t get to share it with others?
When academics consider amplifying their research paper, the thinking is often conferences, conferences, conferences. Presenting your paper at a specialist conference can put your work in front of experts in your field, potentially resulting in more citations, exciting discussions and new collaborators. But what if you want to further your paper’s reach?
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A low-effort way of getting your research paper in front of more people is to create a Twitter thread summarising the key points. Think of this as a written elevator pitch for your paper. Try to capture an overview of what you did, what you found and what your findings actually mean.
Hit the key points, and include a link to your paper for those who want to learn more. Make good use of subject-specific hashtags to help aid the visibility of your tweets, and consider tagging your department, institute and/or funding body – they will all be happy to see the success of their researchers and might be able to retweet for you. You might want to have two versions of your Twitter thread – one with a more academic focus to raise the profile of your paper among colleagues, and another that is more suited to a wider audience if you would like to get your work in front of the public.
Your university likely has a press office that helps to manage the media profile of the institution and those within it. These are great people to befriend if you’re interested in raising awareness of your work. If your paper has recently been published, they might be able to help you with a press release, which informs journalists and media outlets about exciting new research. A well-crafted press release can attract wide media attention for your work. And the press officers should also be able to ensure that you get the most out of any media appearances by helping you share it widely online.
Journalists might sometimes reach out directly to university press teams for expert opinions on a range of topics. Letting your press office know about your new paper and that you’re interested in media coverage means they can act quickly if any journalist requests come in.
Think about any blogs you read to stay informed about updates in your field. Would your research paper be of interest to their readers? Have a look to see whether they accept guest bloggers, and pitch a blog post based on your work. Different blogs will have different styles, so try to find one that resonates with you. Alternatively, some blogs run interview series with researchers – don’t be afraid to nominate yourself or to reach out to the blog owner. Opportunities often come to those who are proactively looking for them, rather than waiting for them to drop into their lap.
Straight to the public
If your research paper is particularly relevant to a specific group of people, consider finding ways to reach them directly. Are there any online forums, societies or non-academic blogs that are popular with your target population? For example, if your research has implications for education, you might want to reach out to teaching magazines or blogs. Try to take your research directly to them rather than hoping they come across it by chance. By taking your paper and making it accessible to those who might have a personal interest, you can gain a host of insights that you might not have otherwise got.
As a personal anecdote, in 2018, I published a paper in Frontiers in Psychology looking at the effects of martial arts practice on attention. I wrote a more reader-friendly summary of this paper for The Conversation, which was published shortly after the Frontiers paper. This got picked up by media outlets around the world and even led to an opportunity to discuss the research on a prime-time South African radio show.
These experiences allowed me to get my research out more widely, and because of this I’ve received many emails over the years from martial artists who wanted to share their own experiences and ideas about how martial arts can influence attention. It feels like that paper took on a life of its own once it became more widely available to those with a personal interest as well as academic interests.
So my advice is to take a chance when trying to get your research out there – who knows where it might lead?
Ashleigh Johnstone is an assistant lecturer in the School of Psychology at Arden University, UK.
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