Making a case for highlighting innovative research in the digital age
There’s a spot along the East Coast Trail, just north of Portugal Cove, that’s one of my favourites on the Northeast Avalon.
There you’ll find a feast for the eyes: lush forests, spectacular rugged cliffs, incredible views and, in season, jagged icebergs and majestic whales on their visits to our shores.
Since first arriving to this province 30 years ago, I’ve always enjoyed the immense natural beauty on our doorstep. In fact, when I moved to Australia a decade ago, it is Newfoundland and Labrador’s rugged beauty I missed most about this province.
Much like those awe-inspiring sights, Memorial is home to its own incredible marvels – our researchers. Internationally-acclaimed specialists, experts, problem solvers, fact finders, inventors, life savers and innovators.
Tip of the iceberg
While living abroad, countless people asked me about Memorial and our research activities.
I proudly told them how Newfoundland and Labrador’s university has expertise in areas ranging from genetics to ocean engineering to archaeology to Indigenous studies — things I was familiar with.
But when you start looking and asking, our researchers have considerable skills and knowledge in a multitude of other areas.
“Building a robust research presence makes more people aware of our university and our incredibly skillful researchers.”
Since starting my new role on Nov. 1, I’ve spent quite a bit of time taking stock of the sizeable number of people on each of our campuses doing pioneering, thought-provoking and important research.
It’s wonderful to reacquaint myself with their work, and in some cases, learn about what they’re doing for the first time.
Getting the word out
I’m a big fan of online technology. I like how it helps keep us organized and connected. And, I especially like when an app or program is useful for work.
Take Google Scholar, for example. The free web search engine is a mega-warehouse filled with research and ideas. If you’re doing research — in any field — Google Scholar can easily summarize your research outputs.
Google Scholar is essentially a one-stop shop for everything research. It’s openly accessible (without a subscription) and indexes scholarly literature such as books, articles, theses, conference proceedings and abstracts.
Worldwide, it has become increasingly popular since its launch in 2004. You can see how many times your article has been cited, set up alerts and quickly find colleagues doing similar research to yours.
For researchers, it’s one of the easiest ways to create a profile of your work. You can create a profile here.
“As people learn more about our research, they appreciate the value of our work.”
However, with more than 18,500 students, 5,200 faculty and staff spread across four campuses, nearly 90,000 alumni throughout the world and research projects stretching to all corners of the globe, Memorial has a relatively small presence on Google Scholar — less than 450 profiles when I checked at the end of November — which means that Memorial’s profile in the world has limited presence.
As with any program or resource, Google Scholar and other similar online tools, such as Scopus and Web of Science, are not perfect.
However, there’s a major underlying benefit that outweighs any drawback: exposure leading to reputation.
Building a robust research presence makes more people aware of our university and our incredibly skillful researchers.
In turn, we attract more highly qualified students and faculty which can lead to more research funding. People get excited about what we’re doing and ultimately we grow our profile among key stakeholders, including the public, government, industry and community partners.
Standing out among the competition is increasingly difficult, but raising our research profile also drives Memorial’s reputation to be, as our Vision states, “ . . . one of the most distinguished public universities in Canada and beyond . . . ”
As people learn more about our research, they appreciate the value of our work. It’s a win-win situation.
Like our own Yaffle, which helps connect Memorial University with the people and places around it for collaborations, these online resources allow researchers to promote their expertise to the international community. I encourage you to utilize them to the fullest.
As with those remarkable icebergs that edge along our coastlines every year — seven-eighths of which are below the water — we’re only scratching the surface of telling the world about who we are and what we do best.