Developing your digital footprint
This guidance is aimed at research students and staff, to help you think strategically about your online identity.
The materials on this page will provide information on how to develop a visible, consistent, credible online presence, and to engage professionally with social media.
Tweet Find or share this page address: http://www.gla.ac.uk/digitalfootprint
Click the 'Fullscreen' mode to view as a slideshow.
- University social media guidelines for researchers– Information on research integrity and professional standards with respect to digital communications. Includes links to good practice guidance, relevant University policies and social media guidance issued by professional bodies.
- University guide to social media
– General guidance on setting up institutional social media accounts, including detailed guidance on setting up a research blog.
Your University staff profile
How do I update my staff profile page?
You have every right to access your profile—everything you need to know about claiming access to yours can be found on the Guide to web publishing: managing your research profile.
Once you get access, the tutorials on the above site will take you through the specifics of formatting text and links. But if you can format an email or a Word document, you're half way there.
You now need to think about what to put in your profile. For this, review the slideshows above and the guidance below.
How do I change address, publications, grants etc. in my profile?
To update the following sections of your profile, staff members must contact the relevant offices indicated.
Address & contact information:
Your name and address can be changed on the HR Self Service Core Portal. Once logged in, click on 'Improve' in top-right of the screen. On the left, under 'Employee Detail', click 'Contacts' – here you can add 'Word Address Details' or update your work phone number). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if your details won't update.
This is populated from the University publication system Enlighten, which is managed by the University library in conjunction with college offices. Contact email@example.com if your publication profile is incorrect, supplying the correct reference. Likewise, new staff members should send their full publication list in a word document. In some colleges, e.g. MVLS, the college research support office can also do this for you.
Don't forget to register your ORCiD (Open Researcher and Contributor ID), a persistent digital identifier that will distinguish you from other researchers, and can be integrated into Enlighten.
This list is managed by your college research office. Not all types of income appear on this list, nor do they link to useful information about them. If there are errors or omissions, contact your college research support office. If you are working on an active grant and wish to signpost to information about it, add details to your 'Research Interests' field.
Additional information (MVLS):
In MVLS, this section is drawn from a database that is managed by the MVLS Research Office. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to supply updates or amendments.
What sort of content should I include in my staff profile?
You have several boxes within your staff profile—the keys ones being 'Biography', 'Research Interests' and 'Teaching'. Here you have the freedom to expand upon your research, partnerships and link to other people/sections of the website. Staff in some colleges and research units will also have free-text entry within 'Additional Information' (not in MVLS) and a box to enter your Twitter handle (if you wish to do so).
Not sure where to start?
Here are some suggestion as a minimum:
- Photo: Add a profile picture (ideally 300x300 px). If you don't have access to your unit's media library, you can either ask your research unit Principal Web Publisher, or request direct access from the email@example.com (useful if you want to add additional images to your profile—as long as you have permission to use any images you use).
- Biography: Keep it short. Bear in mind conferences organisers, collaborators or anyone introducing you in an invited talk will want to describe you (and your background)—make it easy for others to do this! Explain who you are, what you do and why it matters (NB it doesn't need to matter to everyone, but it does need to matter to your communities of interest).
- Research interests summary: This is a 280 character (max.) field for keywords which summarise your research interests. The content in this section isn't published within your profile, it drives search functionality for certain areas of the website such as the Find a Supervisor search. Try to use language that best describes what you do, use a semi-colon to separate each word. E.g water; engineering; sustainability etc.
- Research interests:
- Current research activities (keep it brief, or link to them if they have website presences elsewhere)
- Five things you have achieved/started and are most proud of. SO useful to many audiences. A list of publications doesn't achieve this—even people with access to them won't distill your greatest achievements from them.
- Signposts to other websites, e.g. personal site or project website
- Link to online academic networking platforms (e.g. ResearchGate, Academic.edu, Mendeley)
- Others platforms too, according to discipline
- Your ORCID ID
- Link to social media accounts: Twitter, FB
- Link to LinkedIn (for non-academic partners)
- Link to Google Scholar (basic but useful)
- Teaching: Details the courses you teach on. Consider linking to them. If you're constantly nagged for certain materials/resources, signpost to them in this section. Give direction on how, when and why you can be contacted by students at different levels.
The vast majority of people who have arrived at your site will be after information on what you do, what you've done/found, who you work with. They will be especially pleased if you can say what you've done in the context of what everyone else has done. Other sections deal with your publications, so don't repeat these here unless you are adding value to them by linking to materials that help people understand them—be it project websites, other forms of writing media (press releases, presentations, blogs, your own lay summaries) about your work.
Further guidance is available in the slideshares embedded in using social media in research (slide deck resources above)
A good staff profile can be used both by you (and others!) to raise your visibility simply by having a useful site to point people to. It is hard to do this if all people can do is point to a name on a page, or point to a research article behind a paywall. Your template can also provide a platform linking to and from social media (if used in a research/engagement context)—again, find out more about the value (and practicalities) of using social media in research.
- Research team: If you have graduate students or postdocs working for you, you could list them within your profile—linking, where possible, to their own profiles.
- Recruitment: If you are recruiting postdoctoral staff or studentships, or want to present potential postdoc/studentship research areas, you could include these on your profile—either linking to the appropriate job vacancies page, or to the studentship opportunity on findaphd.com.
Need some inspiration?
Here are a number of profiles by members of academic staff at various career stages. All take different approaches, but are informative, provide calls to action (to contact, or find out more) and connect you with their other activities.
- Dr Emilie Combet, Lecturer in Human Nutrition, School of Medicine
- Dr Shaun Killen, ERC/NERC Research Fellow, BAHCM
- Dr Tiziana Lembo, Lecturer, BAHCM
- Dr Michelle Bellingham, Lecturer, School of Veterinary Medicine
- Dr Julie Williamson, Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction, School of Computing Science
- Prof. Colin Bean, Honorary Professor, BAHCM
- Prof. Nikolaj Gadegaard, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering
- Prof. John McMurray, Professor of Cardiology, Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences
Working with the media
The Communications and Public Affairs Office can help you coordinate media releases about your research. Each College has a media communications officer assigned to them:
- Arts: Aine Allardyce, ext. 7126
- Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences:
Elizabeth McMeekin (Mon–Wed), ext. 4831
Ali Howard (Wed–Fri), ext. 6557
- Science & Engineering: Ross Barker, ext. 8593
- Social Sciences: Aine Allardyce, ext. 7126
As each contact provides a service across their respective Colleges, as well as strategic University-wide communications, they must prioritise requests on the basis of:
- whether there is potential for media interest in the project/story, and
- whether working on the project in question will benefit the University's overall strategic objectives
They also help connect media professionals who contact the University looking for experts, or to follow up on recent press releases associated with your work. You can also contact your media officers for general advice about speaking to the media about your work (and dealing with any negative backlash).
If you're developing a media package, remember that YOU are a key part of that package. People will be looking you up online, so along with a press release, now is the time to take charge of your staff profile content, key messages and signposts to any social media. Twitter is a great way to involve yourself (i.e. be mentioned) and take ownership of your media story.
When and why to contact the media officer – your responsibilities
You should contact your media officer to discuss any work that you think might be interesting to a wider audience. If you would like to issue a press release it is important to reach out to them before the research appears online, i.e. as soon as you have (or expect to have) a research article accepted in a peer-reviewed journal. Include a few lines of context: what the research was and why you think it is important (and what the implications are).
Press releases may be issued to local media, national, international or specialist media. The closer you work with the media relations team, the better the opportunity to target a release. You can also discuss prestigious peer-reviewed funding or honours, which may form the basis of a potential news story either within the University or more widely.
Also contact them if the journal or your funder plan to issue a press release—this way they can help field media enquiries that come into their office.
Factors influencing newsworthiness might include:
- Is the work novel or unusual?
- Would the release coincide with major current news stories or events?
- Does it challenge current thinking on a major topic (in a way that might resonate with the general public)?
- Will it change the way things are done? Address a conflict?
- Will it affect people's health or wealth?
- Is it the first, largest, most comprehensive, interesting approach (BE SURE about this, hyperbole gets you nowhere)
- Is there a strong local interest angle?
- Is there a strong visual angle, such as images or video, for journalists to use?
Expert commentary: Even when not looking to promote a recently published paper or award, you can also contribute expert comment to ongoing news stories or trends. If you join the Experts Directory, the media office can find you when journalists contact the University looking for expert comment. Alternatively, if you feel you have something to contribute to an ongoing discussion in the media, speak to your relevant Media Officer (contacts above). Traditional media outlets may also support op-eds in some of their online platforms, or the opportunity to comment in stories being developed.
However, an excellent new platform for academic op-eds is The Conservation—an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public. Find out more about writing for them.
Good general advice from University of Cambridge.
Key points to consider if you want good (and accurate) coverage
- Think about the key messages and the context for your research, and consider whether there are particular audiences you would like to reach. Discuss your thoughts with your relevant Media Officer (contacts above).
Why should you care about this? By not constructing your key message, or articulating it, you will force a journalist to decide what the message is—this is how your work gets incorrectly reported.
- Journalists often have little time and tight turnarounds. It's important to get the messages (and facts) straight in the press release. It is important to say what the study shows, but equally, say what the study can't (or doesn't) show. Any serious journalist will seek to contact the researcher behind the work, and as this is the route too higher quality media coverage, it is important to ensure you're as available for comment.
- Keep records: Keep any news cuttings the media team send you (which will also provide the circulation). In particular, take note of science writers and other journalists who have written good news and features on research in your area, or from your own press releases in the past. Keep a record of how to contact them and use them again.
- Be aware of the University's policy on openness in animal research. Any use of animals in research should be disclosed.
- Let your funder know if you have a prominent publication (with or without press coverage). Several funders use their websites and blogs to celebrate key findings from their community.
- Read the following article in The Scientist, 'Getting the Word Out: In a shifting media landscape with a growing public interest in science, some researchers are doing their own PR.' [Includes selection of science news outlets and how to contact them].
Why engage with the news media
It's a good question. While there can be a degree of fear at the prospect—the loss of control once the news is out and how people will interpret it—with a bit of preparation, you can make it work well for you. The news media is possibly the best way to get your research out to a wide (general) audience, though of course it isn't now the sole way of doing so. It can enhance your profile/reputation, establish your expertise in a wider sphere, open up other opportunities to engage, helping your research reach the communities you need to reach. In particular, think about how it can help you raise awareness of a key issue, particularly where these are an outcome of your research (disease control approaches, environmental impacts, conservation issues).
You can help retain control by having your own digital footprint (a personal website, social media, blog). This allows you to capitalise on the positives of a story, and add value to it, yet also be responsive to any negatives or misconceptions—people genuinely appreciate additional commentary from the scientists involved. With a bit of strategic thinking, honing the messages you want to get out and audiences you want to reach, the media can provide a significant pathway to research uptake.
Audit your own communications channels
When the story isn't quite right for generalist news media:
- If you have identified key audiences you need to reach (e.g. conservationists, veterinarians, farmers, renewables industry, global health NGOs), you should audit the channels you have available to reach them directly. These may include specialist news outlets (e.g. Mongabay or Farmer's weekly), professional society magazines (e.g. Microbiology Today, The Biologist) and blogs.
Approaching specialist writers and media yourself will send a stronger message, assuring them that you will be contactable.
- There are many freelancers out there, you can often find them by engaging with Twitter, or from great articles of their that you've read. You may also find them authoring professional blogs on prominent platforms such as National Geographic Phenomena or Scientific American blogs. Ensure you know the subject matter they cover.
While they have access to the standard Press Release syndicators, they won't necessarily be looking for the BIG NEWS that just about every other staff journalist will be covering. They are often after the feature stories no-one else has heard of yet, with access to interesting characters, ideas and narrative.
You will need to pitch them an idea, framing your research story in a wider context. You could even invite them to join you on your next field trip, in the lab or stakeholder engagement event. By engaging with them, you add credibility, and it says you're approachable. They can take it the extra distance if they are interested. Remember, they aren't just scribes for your research—they are freelancers who need to be able to sell their stories, pitching them to specialist publications such as NewScientist or The Atlantic. Give them plenty of lead time and make yourself available to speak to them whenever—this is essential.
- Identify the communication officers (or known key contacts) at charities, advocacy groups (where appropriate) and other small NGOs (especially those you work with) related to your field, and discuss sharing news via their communications networks. If you do work with them on a news feature directly, let our own press office know.
- Consider the channels you consume yourself, as well as those more generally in your research area—blogs, specialist magazines and other news sources. If you see value in the information they provide, perhaps you should be contributing something to them.
Recommended external resources
The following resources are a worthwhile investment in time. Each will add layers to your understanding of profiles, strategies to use and develop them. The articles showcase useful examples of best practice in self-promotion and communications. While much of this advice is from the scientific research sector, it is broadly applicable across academia.
- Profile: The 30 day impact challenge – Stacy Konkiel's guide to supercharging your digital presence and connections both within and beyond academia
- Listening: The Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine podcasts:
- Social media: Oregon State University Superfund Research Program has a comprehensive set of links of social media for scientists
- Dissemination: How to reach a wider audience for your research: Another compendium of great resources, curated by SciDev.net
- Twitter: British Ecological Society's 'Why you should be on Twitter' [PDF]
- Twitter: Great article in Nature that effuses the value of Twitter, and how scientists can use it to expand their social contacts and find jobs
- Twitter: Exercise: writing a good Twitter bio
- Writing: For those with a broader interest in science writing, here is a great selection of articles at Guardian Science: secrets of good science writing