Why and how to increase the visibility of early career researchers?

Increasing the visibility of early career researchers (ECRs) can benefit them, science, and Society at large. Understanding the reason and how it can be done – from social media to press releases – is important for young researchers.
Why and how to increase the visibility of early career researchers?

A researcher with a high 'visibility' has a well-known and accessible work and profile to colleagues and often to the public, too. For many young and not-so-young scientists, it is not obvious why they should increase their visibility. People start doing research because they like their field, not because they like giving talks and interviews. I will try to explain the question below. If you look at it from the point of view that you can do research only if you have the money to do it, then you will understand.

High visibility can significantly contribute to advancing an ECR's academic career. It helps leave a broader impact on the scientific field and, equally importantly, can enhance personal development. Why? Because it makes it easier to connect with potential collaborators, even beyond traditional subject boundaries, resulting in new research projects, and co-authorships on publications. It can also lead to invitations for conferences, workshops, and committees. Representatives, reviewers of funding bodies, and industry leaders have more trust in a visible ECR. They are more likely to believe that the ECR has contributed significantly to the field, which can result in research funding and job offers. 

Visibility can also enhance the chances of communicating their research findings to a broader audience, to the public. Although this still seems a waste of time for many academics, it is more and more evident, especially after the COVID pandemic, that the dissemination of science can contribute to public understanding, influence policy, and thus enhance the contribution of research to society. And vice versa: again, it's easier to convince funders if it's clear that your research has a big impact on public opinion.

Visible growth

It may sound surprising, but communicating with colleagues, journalists, and the public also affects personal development. You will receive feedback from a wider audience, from many perspectives, which can be invaluable for improving research methodologies and the general quality of your work. Answering the questions of journalists often forced me to identify the essence and the most interesting questions in my research, which helped in formulating my scientific papers, too. You can also practice modesty to avoid the semblance of bragging, honesty, and careful drafting when communicating about your research.

Speaking about modesty or humility: visible researchers are more likely to receive awards and prizes. Do not think that it is about your grandiosity – it just reflects visibility, and, relatedly, impact. Note that awards can further contribute to career advancement. If a committee sees that others have already trusted you, they will have more confidence in you. “For to everyone who has, more will be given.”

Get to know the tools

The next question is: How to increase visibility? Firstly, in the digital age, pay attention to online presence. Update your profile on academic profile platforms like Google Scholar, ORCID, Publons, Scopus, Kudos, and Impact Story. Use social networks actively, such as ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, Mendeley, and Zotero. Publish your research on social media (X, Facebook, Instagram) and institutional websites. Make your own personal website, your institution probably provides the digital space for it. In the beginning, it seems to be time-consuming, but later, it will become a habit or even a hobby. Still, handling so many different platforms can take a lot of time that could be better spent on research. Therefore, it may be worth creating a constantly updated central profile and linking it to the others automatically.

Of course, to upload content on these platforms, ECRs need to publish first. Citations by others are a good measure of visibility and impact on the field, but an even bigger impact can be reached with the help of a press release. Many journals show the impact in the press with the Altmetrics score. Write the press release at the last round of revision. It is not difficult, just imagine your audience as interested secondary school pupils, and explain your science. Avoid technical language, and simplify complex terms. First, find an attention-grabbing headline, then write the lead, which is a summary in 2-3 sentences. The text should follow the structure of scientific studies, each in 2-3 sentences maximum. Introduce the background, where you explain why your research is important, the methods explain what you did, the results what you found, and as a discussion, elaborate on the potential application and how the findings might make the world a better place. As readers love quotes from scientists, put some sentences in quotation marks and put them in the mouths of yourself and other authors. Mention affiliations/positions/funding bodies after the names, because this is important for your funders and the institute. When you are ready, find your institute's PR office; they will assist you with the rest. The publication of a press release, timed to coincide with the publication of the original paper, will probably result in interviews and podcasts.

Other traditional methods of increasing visibility are teaching, and presenting research in conferences, workshops, and seminars, which can also provide networking opportunities. The point of face-to-face meetings is not the presentations, but the coffee breaks. While it can be difficult to talk to strangers, especially for introverts, remember that the purpose of conferences is to build relationships.

All in all, visibility is crucial for career advancement. It can lead to increased funding, job offers, collaborations, and a greater impact on both the academic field and society. Do not think that visibility is about bragging. Rather, it's about making an impactful contribution to science and society. And if someone becomes very visible, they may even end up becoming an internet meme – a modern sign of real impact.

Meme showing a photo of Richard Dawkins sitting at a table, with text above saying "Dawkins demonstrates how mimetics work" and text below saying "Introduced the concept of memes to explain cultural evolution, became a meme himself"
Meme by the author and original photo by Shane Pope from Austin, United States
 (Dawkins at the University of Texas at Austin, March 2008),
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

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