Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Should I have a website? (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by chrysics | www.flickr.com/photos/chrysics
Most people who know me at La Trobe realise I'm a zealot when it comes to social media and making research accessible.

There are many, many good reasons to give it a go - some people take to it, others don't. Still others like some aspects of social media but will run a mile from others.

And that's all good, as long as researchers keep an open mind about the channels and platforms that are available, and genuinely think them through for their own needs.

One of the common questions I get asked, and have fielded recently many times, is from early career researchers and PhD students: "Should I have a website?"

Most of the time, after having a quick chat, the answer is that it's worth setting one up.

WHY would I want a website? 

The driver to set up a website is usually a combination of these reasons:

1. Developing a profile for the researcher, a particular project, or research issue.
2. Being on - or almost on - the job market and wanting to present a good digital face.
3. Wanting a space to engage with non-academic partners and collaborators.
4. Anticipating recruiting for a research project (and building a base for it)

One of the most important things for emerging researchers is being able to present the strongest face possible to potential employers, funders, and collaborators. It can be hard to do this, for example, when your digital profile is split across several universities where you tutor and all you have on those staff pages is 'Casual tutor' or 'Sessional staff'. That's not the identity that most researchers want on the front foot, and having your own website means that you control that career story!

Another key thing offered by a website is that the information about you and the research is in one place and easily edited or re-shaped. You don't have to go through a third party just to correct a typo or add a publication. You may still have a LinkedIn and Google Scholar profile, and have an account on ResearchGate, but your website brings all these online faces together.

While the actual setting up of a website can take time, its management and updating does not have to be onerous.

HOW do I set up a website? 

To set up a website, there are many easy-to-use platforms to choose from, and they're often free. If you do a quick search for this topic, you'll get literally millions of hits and a lot of the advice is good and consistent whether you're setting up a site for yourself, your project, or a set of issues.

WHAT can be on my website? 

It's then a question of investing time to work out design and content. Having a clear idea of what purpose the site serves is a biggie - if you don't have clarity about why you're setting one up, it makes all the choices about content and its organisation that much harder.

I've written about what's on a good research project site (at The Research Whisperer), and it's a good place to kickstart your thinking about what you'd include and why.

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If you want to see what La Trobe researchers have gotten up to with their websites, here are a few that are worth checking out. Note how they organise the information, what kind of language they use, and the ways in which they strive to engage the visitor in the work that's being done.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. If you know of good examples of La Trobe researcher websites, let me know! These sites are set up by individual researchers. Some of them focus on a single project, others are also blogs. They are not whole unit or team sites - that would be another blogpost!

Selection of La Trobe researcher websites: 
  • Liver Fluke Control (website created and developed by PhD researcher Jane Kelley for her research team at AgriBio) - Jane's research is industry-funded and heavily industry embedded. This website about the project is a great way for stakeholders to see what is being done during the research, as well as share the resources and findings as the project matures. 
  • Clare Wright (Associate Professor in History, author, broadcaster) - Clare's significant public profile and the projects and events she's involved with (past and present) are all here. Very slick! 
  • Ian Woolford (Hindi lecturer) - Ian's presence online is notable for its dedicated bilingual foundations (see his Twitterstream - @iawoolford). His website, which focuses on his scholarship and academic narrative, is no exception. 
  • Erika Duan (Postdoc immunologist/cartoonist) - Erika's website shares her bio and career story thus far, and it also showcases her passion for cartooning! 
  • Zoe Krupka (Feminist therapist/PhD researcher) - Zoe writes for the public across a range of outlets, and is a prominent commentator on various issues. Her site presents a portfolio of her writing and TV/radio appearances, as well as shares current interests and projects with her readers. 
  • Simon Watson (Ecology researcher) - Simon's site nicely profiles the research projects he's involved with, research publications, and his bio. It's a good, succinct way of making sure that, if someone finds him online, they know what Simon's about, what he can do, and who he has worked with before. 

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