Who are you online? Creating a web presence for academics

No one can afford to leave an online profile unchecked.

How to make the most of your online profiles.

Anyone wanting to find out about Dr Ilke Onur can go to his page at the University of South Australia’s website. There they’ll find all the usual information about the economics lecturer at the university’s Business School: his contact details, qualifications and a list of his research papers.

But Onur has gone one step further, creating his own personal webpage as well. Along with his qualifications and research papers, the site lists the seminars at which Onur has presented, his work history – and has links to restaurants he’s enjoyed.

“I don’t think the university’s website is good enough. It only has very basic information,” says Onur.

Onur says that as an international academic, he likes the added visibility that his own website can provide. The site is currently a work in progress and he plans to make his published work and working papers downloadable.

A web presence that shows off his papers and research can enhance his career, says Onur, with his increased visibility potentially leading to more invitations to collaborate on research or present at seminars.

And there’s another potential bonus from having published work easily available online: more of the all-important citations in other academics’ research which, as Onur notes, can help earn university promotions.

Onur is part of a growing trend for academics to spruce up their online profiles, be it through their own websites, or on Facebook or LinkedIn, or via Twitter. Gone are the days when academics could rely on their position alone for profile and promotion.

Among the first things that anyone who is considering an academic as a speaker at a symposium, or as a research collaborator or for a university post, will do is Google them. So academics have to take care to manage their online presence.

Onur says that in the US, where he did his PhD, almost all academics have their own websites. “The first thing they tell you if you’re trying to find a job is to start a website and put all your information there.”

Abhishek Bhati is Associate Dean – Business & IT at the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU) Australia. In addition to his university staff page, he also maintains an extensive LinkedIn profile.

He says the JCU site is a valuable “soft marketing” tool, but LinkedIn provides an additional way of enhancing his web presence. He has received invitations for research collaboration as a result of his LinkedIn profile.

Bhati also uses LinkedIn to stay in touch with alumni who have moved away from the world of academia – and in fact arranged a reunion with some former students when he was attending a conference in Germany recently.

Here are a few things academics should think about when considering their online presence:

Websites

Setting up your own website is always going to be much more onerous than using LinkedIn or Twitter, but the payoff is that you have complete control over what goes on there – all the decisions around the content and format are your own.

The website can be as simple or complicated as you like. For more information of the technical details visit the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

Try to keep your website current. It’s a bad look if links from your site lead nowhere or if you’ve tagged an event you attended in March 2010 as “latest news”.

LinkedIn or Academia.edu

Academia.edu is a social networking site for academics and is considered by some to be an academic alternative to the employment networking site LinkedIn.

But as a blog in the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests, academics should also consider having a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn profiles receive good rankings in Google search and they can be a way for academics to keep their career options open.

Twitter

With only 140 characters to express a thought or share some news, Twitter is not the best forum for in-depth commentary. But it’s not just for tweeting what you think about last night’s episode of The Biggest Loser, either.

Twitter can be useful for some academics who use it to tweet links to research or papers when they’re released. And Twitter can be of use in reaching out to a large group of people to source information or contacts.

The London School of Economics has published a useful guide for using Twitter for academics.

Facebook

Facebook is not, of course, a professional site.

But it does show up in search engines so it’s worth having a close look at your Facebook page and thinking about whether there’s anything on there that could put off a potential employer or collaborator.