Research essentials

How to use social media to disseminate research findings

Traditionally, research and theoretical studies have been disseminated through articles published in journals or via conferences as oral or poster presentations. However, the rise of the internet and social media in particular has broadened opportunities. Work can now be published in novel ways, and social media can be used to draw attention to work that has been published in traditional media. This article will guide you through some of these.

Traditionally, research and theoretical studies have been disseminated through articles published in journals or via conferences as oral or poster presentations. However, the rise of the internet and social media in particular has broadened opportunities.

Work can now be published in novel ways, and social media can be used to draw attention to work that has been published in traditional media. This article will guide you through some of these.

Traditionally, research and theoretical studies have been disseminated through articles published in journals or via conferences as oral or poster presentations. However, the rise of the internet and social media in particular has broadened opportunities.

Essentials

Before using social media for dissemination you need to consider exactly what it is you are trying to achieve.

If your aim is merely to publicise work that has been published in a traditional peer-reviewed journal, this can be done effectively through Facebook or microblogging sites such as Twitter. While in the case of Twitter there is a limit of 140 characters for each post, hyperlinks can be included.

Geek speak 

Click-through

When you use embedded hyperlinks from Twitter, Facebook etc.

It may be worth checking with the journal to see if they provide shortened URLs for this purpose. Some provide shortened URLs as they enable tracking of where click-throughs originate from.

Judicious use of hashtags can widen the footprint of your work and also allow you to trace who and how many people are tweeting about the topic. It may also be worth considering whether it is worth targeting some of your followers directly to try and get a retweet.

Some of those involved in the healthcare have tens of thousands of followers so this is an easy way to increase awareness of your work.

Academic profile

Google Scholar has the facility to generate an academic profile. In fact, if you have a Google account, you are likely to find that you already have one. All you need to do to enable others to see it is to activate it.

You may wish to check and edit it before you do this. Using Google Scholar enables you to give others access to the ‘grey literature’ segment of your research.

Many (if not all) academic institutions have their own internal repository of published articles for people to access. Some also include work in progress. Using the methods above you can draw people to published and current work. 

In addition to publicising traditionally published work social media provides opportunities to self-publish. The quickest and easiest is to write a blog covering your research. There are a number of sites that will host your blog without charge (see resources).

Geek speak

Microblogging

Sites social networks with very strict character limits.

In the unlikely event that you wish to upgrade to a premium service, the same people will provide extra services, though these come at a cost. If you are new to the world of blogging there are many ‘how-to’ guides available via your favourite search engine.

Just posting a blog won’t attract readers: you will need to publicise it on social media and in other ways such as mentioning your blog address in your email signature.

It is feasible to host your own website with information concerning your research and innovation.  However, unless it is a large and ongoing project, the level of effort required may not be justified.

Some social networks are aimed at researchers, and, indeed, academics more specifically. The two most prominent of these are ResearchGate and Academia. These allow you to develop an online profile and upload your work both published and unpublished.

In addition, there is a question and answer facility, and the ability to follow relevant researchers and authors in your field. You also generate a research score which can look good on your CV.

LinkedIn is also available as a social networking site. While it has many members, it is not clear exactly how well it works when used to develop and publicise clinical research.

Key messages 

  • Social media has the potential to reach a far wider audience
  • There is no peer review of non-traditionally published data so beware
  • The time between writing and publication is minimal with non-traditional methods
  • Remember once you publish on the internet it is there for ever
  • Remember to check whether the agency employing you has a social media policy

 

Resources
  • Carrigan M (2016) Social Media for Academics. Sage Publishing, London
  • Vaidhyanathan S (2011) The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry). University of California Press, California CA

Patric Devitt is a research nurse in Leeds Children’s Hospital’s clinical research team, on behalf of the RCN’s Research in Child Health network’s core community

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