The following is addressed to a researcher seeking to understand how they can best present themselves and their research capabilities, skills, and expertise to the wider world.
You do great work, but the contribution you can make to the wider community isn’t always clear. How do people find you? What can you do to take the work you do and represent that to the wider public, whether you are looking for a job outside of research, contributing to discussions in the media, or providing your expertise to the courts?
The bottom line is people will find you first via search — first through google, and second through facebook, LinkedIn, and other widely used social networks. The same way that you seek out information on the web is the way many, or most, people will come to you. What happens when you do a search on your name? Do the links there represent the best of what you have done? Do the web pages linked to provide summaries of your work in non-specialized language? And if not, what can you do? Having an online profile, either your own website, or on a recognised service like LinkedIn is a great way to rise up the search results. You will have presentations that you’ve given. Do you share those on a service like SlideShare? Many researchers have presentations that have been viewed thousands of times, reaching a much larger audience than the people who were in the room. Done well these presentations are a powerful way to demonstrate your communication skills.
Writing is a skill you can take anywhere, and writing online, whether on blogs, forums, or places like Wikipedia is an effective way to improve those skills. If you write online about your research you can both promote your research work and raise its profile as well as hone and demonstrate those more generic writing and communication skills. The content you create will help people to find you. People who are looking for speakers, people who are looking for experts, and people who are looking for the right collaborators for their team. Also if you have a common name it is this online content that will differentiate you from all those others with similar names.
You can monitor your online presence with automated google alerts and similar services. Moreover, these forms of online work — slides on SlideShare, blogposts, etc — generate forms of metadata and usage metrics that can be aggregated by services such as Total Impact, which pull together information about how that work has been used, allowing a researcher to demonstrate their influence on other researchers in the field. These tools can help you to decide what is working for you, as well as help you to show people how your work compares to that of others. And what is more you can start using this information to enrich your CV, give evidence to mentors writing letters of recommendation, to demonstrate to the world who you are and what you can do.