This is a guest post by Saima Eman, PhD Commonwealth Scholar, Psychology, University of Sheffield and Lecturer in Psychology, Lahore College for Women University, Lahore, Pakistan

S_EmanSince technology is the main source of information diffusion, it goes without saying that the online presence and online interaction of researchers is indispensable. Below follow some ideas from my own experience, for joining in global discussions, and for expanding the reach of your research.

In addition to looking for a new job or position, maintaining a researcher profile online is equally essential for career progression and reputation. Websites such as Researchgate, Linkedin Facebook, Google scholar, and a personal university webpage Google sites and Wixsite are very useful in recording the research work including published research, research projects, and achievements as a researcher.

Skype brings the meeting to you. I have participated as a research participant through Skype interviews, and help Skype meetings to meet potential international collaborators, future research team members. Recently my friend was part of an online meeting of researchers in different countries, where PhD students answered questions from students worldwide about the experience of being a PhD student.

Taking part in online courses such as FutureLearn can help you fill skills or knowledge gaps in your researcher repertoire.

Your online presence as a researcher can also be used to further your research, improve the quality of research, and seek new avenues to publish, disseminate, learn and share. For example being a graduate member of the American Psychological Association gives you access to certain research articles and reviews which you can use in your research.

Belonging to online research groups can also build your personal profile. For example, I attended a seminar about research on race and joined the Race Research Network at University of Sheffield – one example of a group through which I can now access spaces to analyse and discuss different research papers, and developments in the field. Through these groups, you can organise your own meetings, workshops, seminars and conferences, as well as attend events that others offer.

Some researchers use Facebook (e.g. our Commonwealth Scholars Sheffield group) as a diary log to record their reflections about their PhD research stage and development and invite opinions of their research fellows on any aspect of their PhD, for example asking for feedback on the length of their PhD research title, discussing journals to get published in, etc. There are also a number of Facebook pages, which collate news and recent developments on related topics as well as cultivate discussion amongst the researcher community (e.g. I use BBC Global Philosopher and British Psychological Society. You could also use Facebook or Twitter to recruit participants for your study (ethical approval permitting) by posting survey links, or inviting participants for an experiment. Twitter hashtags you may find useful are: #PhDlife #PhDchat #sheffpgr #AcWri #AcaDowntime #PostAc #WithAPhD #sheffvista and the @ThinkAheadSheff account too.

You can also contribute to student blogs for example the We Are Sheffield Students blog.

The Viral Video Challenge is an example of a university research video competition you could get involved with, and research photo competitions (e.g. this one in Science) also stimulate research creativity and interest. Volunteering to be a judge on the panel for a research communication competition by rating research videos on YouTube are all further ways to enhance your online profile. For example, I recently volunteered to judge Youtube videos for an international prize in the creative communication of science in a Professor Sir Harry Kroto legacy project.

Delivering live or recorded virtual presentations in conferences is a way to participate in a conference or a workshop if you do not have time and resources to physically participate in a conference. For example I submitted exhibits via email to Dementia Futures conference. In another example, I submitted a poster via email to the Re-imagining the Gothic conference at the University of Sheffield.

You can also become an abstract reviewer online. I gained the status of senior reviewer after reviewing more than 15 abstracts for the International Academic Forum.

New researchers can be recruited through online networks too. For instance I am the Pakistani representative for the Psychology Department. Pakistani students worldwide could get information from me about the university and the psychology courses at University of Sheffield. One of the new Pakistani Commonwealth Scholars at Sheffield, contacted me for information about the university and life in UK before applying for study here.

Having an online presence as a researcher in the current era is extremely necessary not only for research advancement and knowledge progression, but also for personal career development. It’s worth reading your emails and signing up to mailing lists too, most of the online collaboration and other opportunities I have engaged with were consequences of paying attention to the adverts in university emails!