Why you should share your research stories
There’s a whole lot more to sharing your research than just putting it out there through the traditional journal-publishing approach. Everyone obviously loves the peer review process, the costs, the time, the comments from reviewer #3!
But it’s definitely worth considering other ways of getting your work ‘out there’ wider. Not everyone reads journals, so you could be reaching completely new people who are interested in what you are doing.
And if you have your work funded by the charity, you are telling the people who have donated their hard-earned sponsorship for their running event, or someone who kindly donates regularly each month, that their money is making it all possible. That’s important.
Why communicate your research? It’s simple - your research is awesome. It’s novel. People are interested in it. Others could benefit from it. And most of all, it gives hope to people with kidney disease.
You just need to think about how to get it out there and reach the people who want to know about it.
Reasons not to share your research
Let’s get these out the way first. There’s a widespread level of apprehension around sharing unpublished data. It’s understandable: you worked hard to generate those results and so just blurting them out is scary. What if someone steals your ideas?! What if someone copies you? What if...
“…someone scoops my research?”
You don’t need to churn out raw data sets at this stage. I mean, you could, and there are even systems in place to let you share unpublished data.
But for now, let’s just start with what you’re working on. A short introduction or the hypothesis and maybe a general result. Chances are, others are working on something related. But of course, you’ve already done a lot the groundwork – you’re ahead of the others, which is why you’re sharing it! Sharing your work and preliminary findings is a very transparent and citable reference. For more formal options take a look at things like figshare and, even better, bioRxiv – go get your data out there.
“…someone copies me?”
Flattering stuff, being copied. As we’ve said above, you’ve done the work. Anyone else who wants to try to copy your research based on top-level lay summaries is going to a) really struggle, and b) be way behind you already. So don’t worry about this.
“…I’m really bad at communicating.”
Fair enough. Lots of people find the communicating part pretty tough. The great thing about communications is that it’s so broad. If you’re not great at speaking, write something down. Get yourself on Twitter and start sharing research ideas and even problems – there’s a great community of scientists already there.
If you’re not great at writing, try a vlog. The #scicomm folks on Instagram are hugely supportive and are always talking about their research lives and the peaks and troughs that go along with that. To get started on Instagram take a look at Samantha Yammine and Martijn Peters to name a couple. Find what you’re comfortable with and start there.
And if you’re still not sure, ask for help. There are plenty of people who can help you communicate your work to different people. That includes the team here at Kidney Research UK – we are always happy to advise and give you some tips!
In short, there are a host of reasons you could come up with to not share your research, but very few of them are going to hold up to scrutiny. Sorry. Instead, let’s look at some of the benefits of sharing your research.
There really are other people doing research like yours. In a lot of cases, rather than trying to scoop your ideas, they’ll have no idea who you are. They may, in fact, be doing work complimentary to yours. And so rather than being a rival, they could turn out to be a collaborator. If you share your research, that is.
History often paints scientists as loners – isolated individuals in lab coats, beavering away into the small hours. But it’s not completely true. Science almost ever happens because of some lone genius. It happens through collaboration and sharing ideas – through working with other scientists. By getting your research out there you open yourself to some wonderful possibilities of jointly working on research. Research that may be greater than the sum of its parts.
Science goes wrong. A lot. The communities that have sprung across social media are great sounding boards for research problems. Sharing your research problems can mean you overcome that weird negative result, figure out that very positive outlier or even just get some advice on next steps. In so many cases you can be sure that someone’s encountered something similar and are happy to help you out.
Take the time to turn to something like Reddit, Twitter or ResearchGate to ask questions. Your peers are usually pretty cool.
Networking. It’s a bit like marmite – some people love it, and it makes a lot of people squirm too. Many people get a little ball of anxiety form in their stomachs when thinking about attending a networking event. Which is exactly why sharing your research can help. You don’t always have to attend a networking event; you can do it digitally! No human contact required!
So avoiding people doesn’t always work out, and might not always be the best idea. Sharing your research can definitely take place primarily online, but it doesn’t have to be exclusively online.
Telling diverse audiences about your research can open up so many opportunities, from guest blogs to mainstream press and media like interviews or articles. Maybe a tweet turns into you being invited to speak at a local event or charity, which turns into a spot on TV, which turns into some additional funding, which turns into a Nobel prize. It could happen!
The point is that you never know what opportunities getting your research out to more people could offer up, and you never will unless you give it a spin.
And in these days of demonstrating impact, it’s even more important to get your research stories to reach more people, in many ways. Your universities and institutions will be asking you to do this to contribute to their research assessment exercise, so that’s another reason to have a go.
You might just enjoy it!
Sharing your research could mean collaboration; it could mean you solve a problem; it could mean media coverage online, in print, or on TV.
But across all of this, it’s usually more fun than you expect. You probably like your research. Maybe you even love it. Speaking with others who find it interesting can be really enjoyable. The conversations can be great. They can be memorable. They can give a completely different perspective and you might end up thinking about things you’d never considered. You might even end up having a hoot all the while!
So, there you have it: some pretty good reasons (we think) to share your research far and wide. You’re probably already fully aware of the main social media channels available, but, if not, keep your eyes on our website’s news and blog page for another article all about exactly which channels to use and how to get started with each of them.
Let us know your thoughts
What do you think? Are you in favour of sharing your research or do you prefer to keep it to yourself until it’s out in a peer-reviewed journal? Let us know over on social.