Let’s face it. Most of us toil away in laboratories or in the field, and our efforts are not widely known or appreciated—even though we may be working on interesting topics or making solid contributions to scientific knowledge. Many of our scientific publications are read by just a handful of specialists and students in our fields (if we are lucky). One reason is that most papers are not highly visible—unless it is research that appears in journals such as Science or Nature and/or the media takes note. For most researchers, such attention rarely happens. Their work and papers remain mostly unnoticed—beyond a small circle of peers.
So if you don’t get your research published in Science or Nature, how do you make it more widely known?
Create Visuals That Point To Your Paper
As I’ve tried to emphasize in numerous posts on this blog, creating audio-visual communication products will help get your work noticed—by search engines and by people. Images, graphics, and video will put you on the first page of a Google search. People (even scientists) are more likely to click on an image or video compared to a text link. If you post multiple visuals online and each contains a hyperlink to the technical paper, you’ve created multiple pathways leading to your paper. The more people who become aware of your work, the greater the impact (and possibly more citations). Such science communications not only serve to advertise papers, they can: (1) attract top students/post-docs, (2) attract potential research collaborators, (3) be used to meet the broader impacts criterion in grant proposals to NSF or NIH, and (4) inform end-users such as resource managers or health-care workers, to name a few uses. For junior scientists just starting out, getting your work noticed early and more widely can greatly benefit your career.
Interactives and Infographics
I’ve emphasized video in this blog, but another option is to create an interactive presentation or infographic that summarizes your published paper. A few scientists are posting slide shows (for example, on Slideshare or Figshare), which explain and illustrate their research findings. Although such slide shows can be created with PowerPoint, there are newer applications, such as Prezi, that support creation of non-linear, multi-dimensional presentations, which resemble mind maps more than slide presentations.
If you’ve not heard of Prezi, it is a free, online tool (paid pro version provides added flexibility). Instead of the usual linear presentation format, Prezi uses a multi-dimensional canvas that allows you to zoom in and out as well as pan around whatever is displayed. I think Prezi is particularly useful for illustrating complex science topics, especially those involving different scales and hierarchies. You can also create effective infographics with such software (see this amazing interactive featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day).
Example of a Visual Abstract Created With Prezi
I’ve been exploring how Prezi might be used to create an interactive, visual abstract of a journal article. To illustrate this idea, I created a visual abstract of a recent paper with Prezi (see player below).
For best viewing, select the full-screen option (lower right of window).
My visual abstract targets technical and semi-technical audiences and is fairly complicated with a lot of information and visuals. But it gives an idea of what is possible with this tool. Once a presentation is created, the embed code can be used to install the presentation on a website as I’ve done above. Instead of just listing publications, a scientist could display visual interactives where visitors could better see what their research is all about.
So if you are looking for ways to get your research noticed, you might try creating a visual abstract that you share online. For more about the h-index and citations, see this post.