Your Identity and Online Reputation Management

fix your search results orm

Unless you are a CIA operative or completely off the grid, you are very likely to have some sort of digital footprint beyond your published articles and departmental faculty profile. This can be a good thing if, for example, you are:

  • entering the job market or looking for collaborators in interdisciplinary research
  • applying for a major research grant
  • hoping the media will call you for an expert opinion in your field of study
  • trying to reach the public and/or policy makers who are misunderstanding (and defunding) the research being done in your field

Having a digital presence beyond your formal academic work can be immensely beneficial. The trick is to take control of that digital presence and ensure that it works to your benefit. Luckily, there is help to be found; publishers, universities, and academic libraries all provide resources to help their academic communities effectively curate a professional, online scholarly identity.

What’s in a Name: Scholarly Identity, Reputation Management

So what do we mean by “scholarly identity” and why should one’s identity be curated? Traditionally, an academic’s reputation, offline or online, was built by publishing in prestigious journals or with important presses, by an affiliation with influential institutions or people, or by presenting at national and international conferences. Your impact was largely measured by the length of your CV and your citation rate. You can read more in the article Why You Need Online Reputation Management. What’s changed? New opportunities for measuring and communicating impact are developing and being incorporated into traditional systems of review. How and with whom your work is communicated has been forever altered. The infrastructure and the expectations are changing.

First and foremost, it is important to curate and communicate your story instead of allowing the internet to create a digital identity for you. Letting search engines determine your story can have “disastrous consequences” and “avoiding digital spaces entirely is increasingly a non-viable option as institutions of higher education expand into digital domains,” warn Katia Hildebrandt and Alec Couros of the University of Regina. Avoid the horror stories by taking control of your digital scholarly identity with the help of the guidelines and resources made available by your publisher, your university, and your library.

Potential Partners

Many of the major publishers both encourage authors to promote their recent publications on social media and offer guidelines and tools for authors to be more visible online. Lucy Goodchild, Senior Marketing Communication Manager for Life Sciences, and Sacha Boucherie, Senior Press Officer for Elsevier, argue in “How to promote research in your journals (and why you should)” that promoting research is important to engage the public and “good for science.” They note that, “There’s also evidence to suggest a link between exposure, usage, and citations when it comes to scientific articles; the more an article is mentioned publically, the higher chance it has to be noticed, therefore read and potentially cited.”

Take a look at the Author Services pages on a prominent journal website in your field. Chances are that there will be some information to help guide you in building a positive online presence. Wiley encourages authors “to promote your article, to help maximize and measure the impact of your research. And we’ll help you every step of the way.” Authors are directed to an Author Promotional Toolkit with tips on email, social media/networking, conferences, SEO, etc.

Beyond publisher-driven marketing efforts, sharing your scholarship is an important part of curating your scholarly identity and making the full text of your publications available in an open access repository crawled by search engines raises your visibility. In most cases, the publisher will allow you to “self-archive” a version of your manuscript in your institutional or disciplinary repository after a designated embargo period. See this for more. Employees of the University of California have the right, by virtue of UC’s open access policies, to make their author’s accepted manuscript (AAM) immediately available upon publication by depositing it in eScholarship, UC’s institutional open access repository.

Sharing can get tricky, though. Faculty and researchers sometimes don’t distinguish between academic repositories and academic social networks; using the latter has potential benefits for connecting to others in the field, but may lead to conflicts with publishers or unwanted spam. (Katie Fortney and Justin Gonder describe the challenges of relying on the academic social networks ResearchGate and in another OSC blog post, “A social networking site is not a repository.”) Recently, several publishers (Elsevier and American Chemical Society) have filed a lawsuit against Researchgate because of copyright infringement stemming from academics posting the incorrect version of their work. The American Anthropological Association also sent a message to its members about copyright infringement on and ResearchGate.

One solution for compliance with publisher licenses (while benefiting from widely sharing your works) is to deposit your manuscript in your institutional repository and consult with the repository liaison (contact information can be found on the repository website) to make sure you are depositing the correct version. You can utilize ResearchGate or by linking to both the openly available version in the repository and to the restricted version in the journal without worry of copyright infringement. This practice enables you to benefit from sharing your work to a wider, global audience regardless of subscription access.