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Module 2: Commencement and Collaboration – Putting Ideas Into Practice

4.1 Project badging and establishing a public profile

Strong badging and promotion of your project to peers (as well as to government, business, and the general public) can have an impact on the success of your project – attracting collaborators, potential commercial interests, as well as sharing your research with the general public. In some fields of research this may mean that you are able to participate in the public policy debate surrounding your field. However, there are some key issues linked to the public promotion of research projects and public profiles which may limit, or influence, your strategy for publicity and promotion. These are listed here for you to consider.

1. Publication and commercialisation of research outcomes

In academic settings a ‘publication’ is defined as an academic poster, report, chapter in a book, DVD or multi-media, conference paper, book or journal article, or being the editor of a book. Newsletter items are generally not considered 'published' items.

At the commencement of your project it is important to identify if research outcomes (including publications) are to be placed in the public arena or the commercial one. Effective management of authorship/ownership is crucial, especially once you enter the public domain. If your outcomes are to be public, then collaborations are easily managed with joint publications. As part of your project plan you should develop a team policy to clarify how the author list is determined. This is highly dependent on the relevant culture of the discipline in question. It is common, for instance, to put the most junior contributor first and yourself, as chief investigator, last. However, first authorship is often used as a promotion or general career assessment criterion. Remember that your success as a researcher depends on the success of your team, and that a happy, well-rewarded team is generally the most productive. Funding agencies may have restrictions on when and how you publish your findings; some may put restrictions on going to the media prior to publication. Conferences are yet another way to disseminate and publish findings.

On the other hand, if a commercial outcome is anticipated, then approach jointly-owned IP with great caution. You will need to decide who contributed and agree on IP ownership and licensee rights. Often this will be spelt out in the funding agreement. Let your team understand the legal requirements too. Conflict can occur if data is released prematurely or if materials are transferred and a third party makes a useful measurement on that material. For the usual range of research activities, IP is usually not a problem so long as no commercial undertakings are engaged in. You are strongly encouraged to attend IP management workshops and in particular talk with recognised practitioners at your university.

Some other questions to consider prior to the publication and dissemination of your research findings:

  • Must access to, or dissemination of, results be limited? If so, why?
  • Is there a plan for providing stakeholder and end-user groups with access to the results? (Possibilities include seminars, lectures, radio/TV.)
  • How will the partners be consulted when the results of the research are being published? And who will make the decisions about joint publications?
  • Consider your discipline and/or university's policy/procedures on the principles of authorship, including where to publish and the order of authorship.

Considerations surrounding authorship and acknowledgements:

  • Authorship should be based on making a substantial contribution to the conception and planning of an article; acquisition, analysis, and interpretation of data; or drafting the publication, revising it critically, or giving final approval of the version to be published. Each author must take responsibility for the publication. In the case of externally funded research, the person who was awarded the grant does not necessarily qualify as an author.
  • Some journals have limitations on the number of authors.
  • Order of authors should be a joint decision of the authors. Different disciplines have different accepted procedures.
  • Where individuals have made a significant contribution, but do not meet criteria for authorship, then they may be listed as a contributor. Contributors generally have more input than those listed in the acknowledgments.
  • Any funding agencies should be acknowledged in your article or report. Acknowledgments can also include those who critically reviewed the drafts but who are not authors, as well as administrative staff who contributed to significant data entry or the preparation of other support material.

2. Marketing and badging

Contact the marketing and communication staff in your area or institution for advice and assistance on badging and developing a profile, both within the institution and externally. Seek their assistance in developing a branding plan for your project – from developing a public website to publicity for research outcomes. As always, the size of the project will determine the extent of marketing activities. A small project may justify mention within a larger departmental or school website, with preference being given to communicating outcomes or results in the public interest. A large collaborative centre will require extensive marketing activities, including logo, stationery, and an extensive stand-alone website.

Check your university's policy on branding, website, marketing, and media. Based on your university's policy, design a template for presentations and encourage team members to use it. A consistent public presence is more effective in conveying your message, particularly to stakeholders. Agree on the formula for acknowledgements (where and who) in any of your public material, and always err on the generous side in this regard – it helps avoid unnecessary conflicts.

While collaborations are usually undertaken in good faith and with the best of intentions, conflict may arise where you may not have predicted it. It is useful to develop conflict resolution skills which enable you to bypass personal differences and to open up to possibilities. A useful resource is the CRN (Conflict Resolution Network) website that offers background reading on 12 conflict resolution skills.  for an excellent checklist to assist you to work through any potential conflict in your project – whether around publication and acknowledgement or some other issue.

3. Media and communication training

Attend media or communication training provided by your university. Work with your university media office (or equivalent) to identify target audiences and potential internal and external media opportunities at various stages during your project. Draft a short press release written in common language on newsworthy aspects of your research project, acknowledging funding sources, collaborators, and stakeholder relationships (although this may not be reported or included in any story). Work with your university media office on the release strategy, and identify a point of contact so a quick reaction is possible. If it is university policy, make sure the media office handles the press release. Press releases and PR material can go horribly wrong – keep on top of it.

4. Expert registers

Register as an expert. If your area is of regular media interest or policy relevance, register with your university media office on their experts directory, and on directories such as Expert Guide ( ) in order to develop a profile in your area of interest.

5. Build a web presence

The focus of your website should be primarily the team's identity, membership, and a short summary of the research project and other activities. Clearly identify the contact details. A useful website for your research project is important. Identify key meta-tags to ensure your team is found by common search engines. Remember that in a website each page has equal importance, not just the top-level page. So the pages of team members are just as important and, to be useful, should contain the same summary found on all the other's sites (contact details, short summary of work), and most importantly should link back to the website’s highest level – your department, school, and university. You should also ensure that your project website:

  • Adopts the corporate design/layout of your university.
  • Links to stakeholders' websites, and acknowledges funding sources.
  • Links to collaborators' websites.
  • Gives everyone a presence, including students and general staff. This builds a sense of team and a sense of ownership.
  • Publishes only those results that are already in the public arena (peer reviewed) or supplementary data to these results. Try not to use your website as the unique reference for data/results.
  • Encourages team members to link from the team's website to their personal pages, rather than have this material embedded in the team site.
  • Retains editorial control, sticks to a formula, and stays succinct so that the site is useful and can be easily updated.
  • Is updated regularly – this should be the responsibility of one web master.
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