Reaching the crowd: promoting your research BLOG#3

Self-promotion, not every researcher feels comfortable with it. Which is a shame as promoting your research is essential to make others aware of your findings. To promote your research your network is an important starting point. However, increasing your network isn’t easy, especially for younger researchers. So maybe we need a bit of help? A tool that facilitates networking and self-promotion is crowdfunding. This might be confusion, isn’t crowdfunding an online funding tool? Yes it is, but it can be used for more than assembling money. Crowdfunding can be very useful to increase the awareness around yourself and your project. In the following blog I explain how and why this is important for you.

Hé! Each month I will upload a new blog series, the subject of this month is ‘crowdfunding for science and Universities’. This is the third blog of the ‘crowdfunding for science and Universities’ series. Click here for the first (general introduction into crowdfunding) and here for the second blog (the importance of transparency and the connection with open science) of this series. 

Self-promotion and networking is essential for researchers and Universities 

Why is networking important for scientists? In order to answer this question is talked with Dr. Hasanefendic. She works as a consultant for the international office at the VU University in Amsterdam. After our talk we concluded that scientists are great at developing knowledge, but not so much at sharing it. Scientists have a tendency to work in isolation instead of connecting with the world around them. Networking is important because it can connect us with important actors: society, companies, other researchers etc. By promoting our findings and connecting with society, the society becomes more involved: there voice and concerns will be heard. Science can be used to solve problems, but in order to help we have to be aware of a problem. If we connect more, the society can be more participatory and science can be more applied. To do so, we will need to work closely with companies and non-governmental bodies (that is hospitals, social institutions, and congregations). These are the societal and economic actors we need to connect with in order to involve them in co-designing research projects. Sandra notes that “the time where a professor just thinks of research to do on his own has passed….co-design, participatory design (so involving societal and economic actors) is the key to improving the valorization processes of research”.

Also, in order to be competitive, this is especially important for Universities, you need to know the work of others. Networking provides you with the opportunity to meet people who can contribute to your project. Self-promotion is also essential in order to attain a job after finishing your PhD. Less than 4% of the PhD’s stays in academia, most of them start working for companies. Therefore, it is important to connect with your future work field. Lastly, earlier we read that it is becoming harder for Universities and researchers to assemble enough funding. In addition, a central movement in Europe is an increasing focus on funding from companies to fund research. We can expect that this will result in companies being more involved in research. In conclusion, networking is important not just for you in order to get new funding or a different job. It is essential if we want our knowledge to be found, understood and used.

Crowdfunding communication

sociale-mediaWhat makes crowdfunding an attractive networking tool? Crowdfunding provides you with several tools to reach your crowd. As crowdfunding is an online funding tool, most of the communication takes place online. However, face-to-face communication with family, friends and colleagues is advised. A common, and I might say mandatory, method is to use social media: Twitter is especially popular. Some crowdfunding platforms (that is the site that hosts the projects) provide you with a chat room, so you directly connect with your (potential) donors. Of course the project information on the platform is also a form of communication.

Expending your network

Crowdfunding provides us with the opportunity to connect with others while networking to promote the project. You should always promote your project using social media, both before, during and after the campaign ended. Projects that received more attention from stahl-connectionsocial media were also more successful.

The direct line of communication with those interested in a specific project is a definite advantage of crowdfunding. A peer group specialized in your field can be very useful. However, finding one is not easy. Sure, you go to conferences and cite the same authors a couple of times, but that doesn’t help you connect with them. Sharing your ideas online in the form of a project makes it easier for others to find you. Also, the online presentation of your project makes it easier to start a conversation, as you already have something to talk about.

Promoting your ideas at a low cost 

Crowdfunding can be used as a relation strengthener: by connecting with donors and their network you can expand your reach at a low cost (instead of for example through advertisement). Also, this makes crowdfunding relatively attractive as a networking tool, as it is cheaper than laughing an advertisement campaign.

Cooperation in an early stage

Next to this financial advantage, you could also use crowdfunding to receive feedback in an early stage of your research. By putting it out there, you give others the opportunity to review your ideas and provide feedback. Crowdfunding allows for cooperation in one of the earliest stages of a project. Thus, crowdfunding can be used as a form of peer-review system.

Dr. Hasanefendic notes that the collaboration between different parties brings associated challenges, as different parties have different desired outcomes and interests so the researcher has to be more than just a researcher. He/she needs to mediate different interests and different goals and make sure that they do not overpower each other and that they all respect scientific methodology. Otherwise the research is merely investigative (something that HBOs focus on as they tend to solve one to one specific company problems) and not a scientific inquiry which contributes to some generalization and hence possible societal impact on a larger level (either within a field, industry etc.).

Promoting your research is important, but definitely not simple.  In this blog I explain how crowdfunding can help researchers and Universities to reach the crowd. With crowdfunding, communication is important and facilitated by several social media platforms. Crowdfunding helps you to promote your ideas and connect with interested parties. It can also be used to assemble feedback and as a relation strengthener. In the blog of next week (blog #4) we focus on the democratic side of crowdfunding to determine if it is a useful funding method for science projects. 


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