Networking to success

When talking to academics it is apparent to me that networking is often underestimated in the grant getting world. Lots of people think they should be applying for funding themselves, where they are the PI and they may or may not have supporting CoI’s. This can work and can be appropriate but will depend very much on the type of funding scheme you are going for, the size of the project, the type of research and the track record of the PI. If in doubt then talk to your research development staff and they can help you to determine what is the best route for you to go down.

Working with other people, whether they be from your own institution or beyond, is a really important way to get known and get yourself attached to other grant applications. It should be obvious that if you put in an application and nobody reviewing it has either heard of you or read any of you work and you are doing research in their field then the odds of you getting the funding are pretty slim. Would you lend money to someone who had no credit history? The funders will look at distributing their ever tighter funding pots in the same way. Publishing is a key route to getting yourself out there and known but there are other things you can do, networking being one. Networking may involve presenting at relevant conferences but could include simply attending these conferences or engaging with academics interested in your areas of research through online forum’s, special interest groups, twitter, blogs or by setting up your own groups whether they be face to face or virtual. There is another way though which is gradually becoming more popular and that is to use web profiles that are yours alone and sit outside of any profile you may have on the university website.Taking this approach is not a panacea to networking but can be an important part of the process. There are three established or emerging platforms that can be used to share information and tell the world about your work. These three platforms have slightly different foci but all can be useful depending on what you want to do:

1) Piirus – This is a relative newcomer to the networking game. It emerged in the UK but is now a global platform that looks to connect researchers together. Researchers populate their own profile and can search for people with particular expertise or for those who might have a shared research interest. The good thing about the site is that everyone on there is open to connecting with people so you are pushing at an open door. It is free to set up a profile and is worth engaging with if you are active in research or looking to become more so.

2) Linkedin – This website is targeted more at the business world than that of academia but if you are interested in making policy connections and getting your publications noticed by business people, policy makers and local communities then this could be the site for you. It is free to join although paid for accounts with more functionality are available. You can put your career history on here, connect with a wide range of people from outside academia (as well as within) and you can join groups, publish posts and be as active as you like, even on the free membership.

3) – This is the worlds largest site for academics to make connections and share research papers. They boast that by placing papers on their site they can increase citations by up to 83%. This site can be very effective if you want to upload your papers and research and enable other academics to search for and cite it. Over 21.5m academics are members and it is straightforward to set up a account.

All three of these offer a slightly different service and can enhance your profile both within the academy and beyond. If you haven’t signed up to one or all of them you really should consider it. And then get out there are present your research wherever you can as well! Are there other online platforms out there that academics should be engaging with? If so, I’d love to hear about them.