So you’ve just finished your first manuscript and, like any eager graduate student, you decide to submit to [rockstar journal]. It may work out…but for most there’s always a contingency plan. Increasingly, that plan relies on “Open Access” journals such as PLoS ONE or Nature Scientific Reports. But with Open Access publishing comes hordes of competition, so a fledgling scientist is always looking to stand out.
Some post on Research Gate or submit their work to specialized corners of Reddit while others dive headlong into the Twitterverse. Some never promote their work directly, but attract attention with blogs and Youtube Channels. These approaches are not guaranteed strategies, so while we wait for citations to accrue (akin to watching grass grow) how can we tell whether we are on the right track. Altmetric, while still in its infancy, is a reasonable gauge for how much online attention your work has received.
To provide an example (and for shameless self-promotion), this is the Altmetric Round-up for my most recent publication at Nature Scientific Reports. For (stark) contrast, here is my advisor’s most recent Altmetric Round-up. Note that it tracks even the links you post, so uncouthly spamming the interwebz will not go unnoticed.
Some graduate students are more interested in public outreach and popularization of science, Altmetric also provides demographics on who is tweeting about your work. While I’m not sure how Altmetric/Twitter determines whether a user is a scientist…but they claim almost about a third of those discussing my work are not residents of the “Ivory Tower”.
Finally, I’d like to suggest a more idealistic means of carving out an academic niché: Expert-Crowdsourced Outreach. It may seem outlandish, but these are becoming increasingly popular accoutrements for job applications.
- Hone your accuracy and precision by crafting concise answers on /r/AskScience forum (protip: gamify it by joining their panel of scientist and earn some sweet flair).
- Practice explaining your science without confusing jargon by heading over to /r/ELI5. A subreddit where the goal is to explain complicated topics to an imaginary 5 year old.
- Build programmer skills and “street cred” by submitting and/or answering questions on StackOverflow. A meritocratic community-support base for all-things programming (yes, this includes R).
- For those who are computational researchers, pushing your work to a GitHub repository allows for potential collaborations and serves as a digital portfolio, resumé, and features productivity metrics that track how often, how much, and the time of day you work (for better or worse).