Thing 11: Managing Your Online Visibility

Taking some time to manage your online presence as a researcher can make you more visible to the people who need or want to know about you. How would a recruiter, principle investigator, journalist or conference organiser know how to find you? Having a plan to manage your online visibility is a good idea, so in this post Christina Ward and Dr Trent Hennessey give you some tips to avoid this task becoming overwhelming.

Getting started

Check yourself – start with an audit

If you aren’t googling yourself, someone else certainly is. To find out if you’re discoverable online – and in fact, what a search about you would uncover – you can replicate someone else’s experience by searching from a private browser. This will ensure your results aren’t skewed by your online history or signed in accounts. Try using more than one search engine, as results and rankings may be different. You might find you have a ‘digital doppelgänger’, that is, someone with the same, or similar, name. This doppelgänger may obscure your work, or your search may uncover some past online activity that you no longer want to highlight. Understanding your digital footprint can help you prioritise what to clean up and how to distinguish yourself when setting up your own profiles: for example, you may wish to use a variant of your name, like including your middle initial.

Recognising there are diverse research cultures and communities, it can be particularly useful to search for some of your peers, or researchers whose paths you would like to follow. What kind of web presence do they have? Which platforms are commonly used by researchers in your field? These quick searches will give you a good idea of the best channels and platforms for your discipline. It will also allow you to be more targeted with building and managing your visibility.

That Thing you do: integration into practice

Now you know what the state of your online visibility is, let’s have a look at how to actively manage and promote yourself.

Researcher profiles – you do you

Researcher profiles are publicly accessible pages that give details of your scholarly achievements, including publications, grants, affiliations, and qualifications. They can provide current contact details, or links to portfolios or social media, making it easy to reach you even if you’ve moved institutions or changed your name.

Some platforms, such as Google Scholar or Scopus, may auto-generate a page for you based on the information held in their database. You’re not required to manage these pages, but if you choose to claim them, you can clean up the results by removing duplications or errors, so that the information is accurate.

For the most part, you can choose which platforms you engage with. However, all University of Melbourne research students and academic staff are required to have an ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID). Your ORCID is a 16-digit number which is unique to you and connects with the University’s publications management system, Minerva Elements (a unimelb log-in is required to access Minerva Elements).

Many profiles will automatically update with your latest articles. They will also allow you to track citations that your research outputs have received.

How do I choose?

The Researcher Profiles, Identifiers and Networks Library Guide will give you an overview of commonly-used profiles and their key features, as well as guidance on setting them up. Before making a choice, consider the following:

  • Who am I trying to reach? Some profiles can only be viewed by people within academia; others, like LinkedIn, are generalist and popular in industry.
  • Does the service have enough flexibility to highlight my work? What kind of contributions can you include – traditional academic outputs or broader contributions? If your discipline showcases their work elsewhere, e.g. github profiles or online portfolios, can you link out to these pages?
  • Do I need to limit my exposure for any reason? Do you have safety considerations to work with? Does the platform offer privacy controls and considered moderation? Are some platforms hostile to particular areas of research or demographics?


A profile is for life, not just for completion

Keeping your profiles current signals to the world that you’re still an active part of your research community, making you a more attractive option to contact, for example if your topic is in the news and someone wants a comment or interview.

Remember to update your profile when you:

  • Have a new publication, award or conference presentation.
  • Change institution, name, or contact details.
  • Are looking for new opportunities.

Managing your visibility requires ongoing work, and taking time at the outset to plan your approach will help you get the balance right. Consider which profile/s will be truly beneficial to you, then focus on keeping these up to date. This will be much more effective than setting up multiple profiles, but not maintaining any of them.

About the authors

Christina Ward is a Liaison Librarian in the Law Library.

Dr Trent Hennessey is Program Manager of Environments and Experience in Scholarly Services. Trent is a strong advocate for lifelong learning, literacies, and libraries, understanding their transformative power to improve lives and develop knowledge societies globally.

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Image: Lucas Wendt from Pixabay

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