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Are you happy with your online persona?
What is the first item you see when you google your name? For many it will be a Facebook page, or maybe LinkedIn or Twitter. Whichever one it is, your online presence is now just as important as your physical day-to-day presence.
There are many tools and services available now to help build and maintain your online profile, tools such as ResearchGate, ORCID and your own departmental university page. All provide targeted content for those looking for experts in the field or to network and grow their community even wider.
Many will be satisfied with their online presence but for many professional scientists who also need this online exposure as a way to share and communicate their science with the global community, it is important to focus on the key messages you want to convey to the rest of the world so you become the authoritative figure in your field of research and the natural go-to person when scientists are searching your area of science online.
Alongside the aforementioned sites, researchers may want to consider blogging. A blog can provide you with a platform to communicate in a more liberated way. A successful scientific blog can give your community a true sense of who you really are; at the end of the day, this is what people want to know. How you present yourself, what are your interests, are you someone ultimately they can connect and work with?
For young research workers it can help improve their writing skills. It can also help them think about areas of communication and networking and how others may interpret them and their results.
A blog can help you promote yourself and what you are doing. It can publicise your name within a targeted community and it can help you build an effective and long-standing reputation within your chosen field, something that might be difficult or impossible to do until you have a quite a number of publications or have travelled extensively in the field to conferences and different research groups.
In a survey of 620 science bloggers, bloggers most often mentioned having started their blogs to practise their non-technical writing skills and to educate or explain science to a non-specialist audience. Motivations to continue blogging vary slightly to what might encourage you to begin, from developing an online writing portfolio, for instance, to blogging to explain, educate and popularise science. In general, what motivates scientists to continue blogging addresses the areas of outreach, self-improvement and enjoyment.
In a blog, the goal is not necessarily to publish breaking news or to explain. A new study reveals the primary goal of a blog is more to share the attitudinal aspects of science and society and to reach out to your colleagues and peers.
An excellent example for inspiration can be seen in the blog 'Reciprocal Space' by Stephen Curry of Imperial College, London, UK: http://occamstypewriter.org/scurry/. In a recent post, Professor Curry publishes an open letter requesting help in a project in which he is involved. Professor Curry cites the reason for using his blog: to widen the net of possible responses.
Having said blogs are an excellent vehicle to share comment and opinion on wider aspects in science and our society, they are also a popular way to share sometimes a more accessible version of your recently published research article, with key messages summarised in about 1000 words, with the idea that it might reach a wider, more diverse audience who then have a vehicle to comment or contact you directly.
As you complete your next paper maybe take a second to have a look at your online profile and ask yourself, is this really me?Jonathan Agbenyega, IUCr Business Development Manager (email@example.com)