“I am a scientist focused on conducting research, not on promoting it.” This thinking strongly resonated with me when I was a PhD student. If it resonates with you, read on to learn why and how you should promote (your) research.
Common approaches to promoting your research include aiming to publish your papers in elite journals (they invest in advertising and some have dedicated professionals focusing on advertising) and attending conferences. I will not focus on these approaches because they are commonly known and often used more than I think is useful. Rather, I prefer more thoughtful and organic approaches outlined below.
The first (and my favorite) approach is clear and compelling communication. If you make important discoveries but fail to communicate them clearly and compellingly, you may be the only one (or one of the few people) knowing they are important. Such results are unlikely to drive scientific progress. Clear communication, means clear logic without hype, vague phrases and unnecessary adjectives. It means good framing with the relevant background needed to understand the questions and approaches without extraneous clutter or meanderings into tangential but not essential discussions.
The second and related approach is to communicate your results to the communities interested in them, which includes presenting in relevant conferences. It also includes scientific social networks. Since the most prominent of those is twitter, I will make a few suggestions with twitter in mind:
- When I tweet about a paper of a colleague, I think of the tweet as a mini (and thus very limited) peer review that highlights substantive findings or element of a paper. The format does not allow rigorously scholarly treatment, but it does allow pointing to something specific that you genuinely think is exciting. If you tell me you are excited about sharing your paper or publishing it in a particular journal, I do not learn new scientific information. Make your tweet as informative about the science as you can.
- Promote all good work that you come across. This includes your work, but also the work of your colleagues more broadly. I think of it as a good service to the scientific community.
- I particularly like highlighting research that otherwise may not get noticed. Papers that are promoted by a sophisticated advertisement system don’t need my help as much.
As you can tell from these brief remarks, my definition of promoting research is enhancing its communication, both the formal and rigorous description of the research itself and in providing thoughtful and informative comments that will attract the attention to the formal description. I think such communication is an important component of the scientific ecosystem, and I strongly encourage all students to participate in it. It helps you, and it helps your scientific community.