Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Increasing your academic visibility

One of the key things every new PI has to do when you start a new lab is to get the word out. You gotta let people know where you are and what you are working on, which is why doing the conference circus circuit is really important early on. But, there is a lot more one can do and I'm really starting to see the benefit of one major thing.

When I first got to Employment University, my department asked me to take on the seminar series. At the time it was a bit hodgepoged and disjunct so I think they expected me to invite a couple of people here and there and call it a day. I had, however, been in charge of a seminar series as a grad student, so the task wasn't particularly daunting and I quickly realized I could use it to my advantage.

I sent out a request within the department for suggested speakers, and as per expectation I only got a few. That gave me freedom to pretty much ask anyone I wanted to see give a talk. I made a list of all the heavy hitters in my field within my geographic "sphere of invitation" and started working through it. I knew I was going to do the seminar series for at least two years, so I was able to spread these talks out so it wasn't blatantly obvious what I was doing.

In the process of hosting some big name folks to the department I have had the opportunity to not only increase interest in my filed within my department, but also get on the radar of some key people from other institutions. This is paying dividends both at conferences when I get the opportunity to catch up with these people and meet friends of theirs, but also because people tend to return the favor and invite you for a seminar at their institution.

More recognition + more invited talks + more interesting (for me) talks in my department = win. It can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but coordinating the seminar series can have huge up side if you use it to your advantage.

12 comments:

  1. Genius. But do you get to pick the seminar cookies as well?

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  2. I also got onto the seminar committee as my first "service" engagement, and I think that it was a great idea for all the reasons that you list. But you forgot one: I also use it to duck out of less fun committees. As in "That sounds like an excellent opportunity, but I'm already busy with my other committee. Thanks for asking, though." SO worth it.

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  3. Dr. Becca, we even get to go out for dinner with the speakers! Best networking opportunity evah!

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  4. Cookies AND the restaurant! Although we do dinners less these days.

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  5. this is only good if you have a budget to get the speakers there and entertain them

    -antipodean

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  6. You can do it on a budget, but having some universities within driving distance makes a big difference.

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  7. I thought this kind of thing was expected of a young faculty member. If you didn't do this you would be "behind".

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  8. Funny, just heard very similar advice last night. The year before doing your "tenure tour", serve as seminar coordinator and invite people from places who might be asked to write letters for you. Then quid pro quo invite yourself to their institutions the next year when you go on tour.

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  9. If you people want to drive to my university you are gonna need a snorkel longer than BP's rig drill- the one that got them in all that trouble.


    -antipodean

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  10. There is a start-up that focuses on assessing faculty visibility. They go beyond the usual citation analysis for publications and include webometrics for a wider range of academic output. See: http://academicvisibility.com or http://academicvisibility.blogspot.com/.

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