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What top universities are doing to stay ahead of the curve

What top universities are doing to stay ahead of the curve

When people think of a research hub where knowledge is perpetually being advanced and disseminated, they are most likely to think of a university or college. Academic institutions that provide higher education, especially those that have the infrastructure to support research, enjoy a special place in the scholarly world. They are viewed as an influential member of academia because of their interest in pioneering breakthroughs in a specific field. Research-based universities have a strong industry presence and foster comprehensive learning and greater engagement between researchers, faculty, and public. It is no surprise, therefore, that higher educational institutes have been willingly embracing a research-oriented approach for decades. But with more than 2.5 million new research articles published each year, it has become increasingly important to find ways to make research findings stand out. Universities understand the importance of this and have been encouraging their researchers to make their research more visible by actively sharing their work with different audiences. Greater visibility not only enhances the impact of the research itself, but it also boosts the institution’s reputation. In this post, I’d like to talk about how academic institutions, research-intensive universities in particular, are actively looking to facilitate the communication of research by encouraging researchers to do much more than publish their findings in renowned journals.

Let’s look at a few universities across the globe that are investing efforts in enhancing research visibility.

The University of Oxford provides numerous avenues for its researchers to engage with wider audiences. Each department at the university has a team of facilitators and coordinators who provide support and guidance for researchers who wish to get involved in public engagement activities or share their latest research through various formats—case studies, animated videos, and podcasts. They also invite experts to write thought-provoking articles intended for mass media consumption, and run “Research in conversation,” a dedicated series of interviews with researchers across the university.

University College Dublin has invested in a Research & Innovation Services Portal to support active researchers on various fronts, such as preparing proposals, promoting published research, and providing communications training.

Many universities in the US such as Stanford University, Boston University, and Texas A&M have their own online news portal where they talk about latest research conducted at the university.

Keck School of Medicine at the University of South California believes in the power of media relations for generating awareness of compelling research and helping it reach a broader, more diverse audience. Researchers can learn how to maximize the reach and success of their work in a step-by-step manner.

Some institutions in Asia are also undertaking similar activities to foster research dissemination. For instance, South Korea’s Yonsei University periodically publishes research updates on its website; these are short posts describing the research conducted at the university and occasionally feature profiles of the faculty. What’s really interesting is that these posts are written in plain language and include links to the published articles, so they appeal to a general audience as well as the research community. Interested readers are also invited to connect with the researchers for collaborations.

A similar initiative by Tokyo Institute of Technology a few years ago has now culminated into a full-fledged online news room, where they host press releases for selected articles authored by university researchers. Keio University also publishes stories about a selection of some of the groundbreaking research undertaken at the university.

The University of Melbourne, too, believes in giving researchers a platform to make their voices heard. One of their most interesting initiatives is a digital story-telling platform called “Pursuit” that publishes expert commentaries. The underlying idea is to help increase research impact and engage the research community.

The names mentioned here indicate only a handful of institutions actively thinking about communicating the research they support. Several others are jumping on the bandwagon and beginning to make their own digital footprint. Besides, some universities also offer full-time science communication courses and others are integrating communication strategies in their curriculum. All these efforts, though varied in nature, lead to a common, positive goal: making science accessible to diverse audiences.

How is your university participating in the dynamic science communication movement? Have you done anything other than writing a journal article to talk about your research? Let us know in the comments below.

Related reading: Beyond the journal article: New ways of communicating science

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