For a while, I have been thinking
about whether or not to make my own website. I could see some advantages, but
at the same time, I was wondering how it would be perceived. After all, I don’t
think any of my superiors at work have their own website, so why should I?
To see what people actually think,
I made a poll on
. It received some attention and generated some interesting
discussions and many supportive comments (you can read them directly by viewing
the responses to the poll I linked above). In this blogpost, I would like to
summarise the arguments that were brought up (they were mainly pro-website).
But first, and without any further ado,
here are the results:
results are pretty clear, so – here it is: https://www.xenia-schmalz.net/
still a work-in-progress, so I would be happy to get any feedback!
noteworthy that there are some people who did think that it’s narcissistic for
Early Career Researchers (ECRs) to create their own website. It would have been
interesting to get some information about the demographics of these 5%, and their thoughts
behind their vote. If you are an ECR who is weighing up the pros and cons of creating a website, then, as Leonid
Schneider pointed out
, you may want to think about whether you
would want to positively impress someone who judges you for creating an online
presence. Either way, I decided that the benefits outweigh any potential costs.
people have pointed out in response to the twitter poll that a website is only
as narcissistic as you make it. This leads to the question: what comes off as
narcissistic? I can imagine that there are many differences in opinion on this.
Does one focus on one’s research only? Or include some fun facts about oneself?
I decided to take the former approach, for the reason that people who google me
are probably more interested in my research rather than my political opinion or
to find out whether I’m a cat or a dog person.
general, people who spend more time on self-promotion than on actually doing
things that they brag they can do are not very popular. I would rather not
self-promote at all than come off as someone with a head full of hot air.
Ideally, I would want to let my work speak for itself and for colleagues to judge me based on the quality of my work. This, of course, requires that people can access my work – which is where the
website comes in. Depending on how you design your website, this is literally
what it is: A way for people to access your work, so they can make their own
opinion about its quality.
principle, universities create websites for their employees. However, things
can get complicated, especially for ECRs. ECRs often change affiliations, and
sometimes go for months without having an official job. For example, I
refer to myself as a “post-doc in transit”: My two-year post-doc contract at
the University of Padova went until March last year, and I’m currently on a
part-time short-term contract at the University of Munich until I will
(hopefully) get my own funding. In the meantime, I don’t have a website at the
University of Munich, only an out-of-date and incomplete website at the
University of Padova, and a still-functioning and rather detailed and
up-to-date website at the Centre of Cognition and its Disorders (where I did my
PhD in 2011-2014; I’m still affiliated with the CCD as an associate investigator
until this year, so probably this site will disappear or stop being updated
rather soon). Several people pointed out, in the responses to my twitter poll, that they get a negative impression if they google a researcher and only find an incomplete university page: this may come across as laziness or not caring.
of information should be available about an ECR? First, their current contact
details. I somehow thought that my email address should be findable for
everyone who looks for it, but come to think of it, I have had people contact
me through researchgate or twitter and saying that they couldn’t find my email
suppose that Professor Awesome is looking to hire a post-doc, and has heard that
you’re looking for a job and have all the skills that she needs. She might
google you, only to find an out-dated university website with an email address
that doesn’t work anymore, and in order to contact you, she would need to find
you on researchgate (where she would probably need to have an account to contact you), or search for your recent publications, find one where you
are a corresponding author, and hope that the listed email address is still
valid. At some stage, Professor Awesome might give up and look up the contact
details of another ECR who fits the job description.
I have never heard of anyone receiving a job offer via email out of the blue. But
one can think of other situations where people might want to contact you with
good news: Invitations to review, to become a journal editor, to participate in
a symposium, to give a talk at someone else’s department, to collaborate, to
give an interview about your research, or simply to discuss some aspects of
your work. These things are very likely to increase your chances of getting a
position in Professor Awesome’s lab. For me, it remains an open question
whether having a website will actually result in any of these things, but I
will report back in one year with my anecdotal data on this.
having your own website (rather than relying on your university to create one
for you) gives you more control of what people find out about you. In my case,
a dry list of publications would probably not bring across my dedication to
Open Science, which I see as a big part of my identity as a scientist.
website can be useful tool to link to your work: not just a list of
publications, but also links to full texts, data, materials and analysis
scripts. One can even link to unpublished work. In fact, this was one of my
main goals while creating the website. In addition to a list of publications on
the CV section, I included information about projects that I’m working on or
that I have worked on in the past. This was a good reason to get myself
organised. First, I sorted my studies by an overarching research question
(which has helped me to figure out: What am I actually doing?). Then, for each
study, I added a short description (which has helped me to figure out what I
have achieved so far), and links to the full text, data and materials (which
helped me to verify that I did make this information publicly accessible,
which I always tell everyone else that they should do).
Creating the website is therefore a useful tool for myself to keep track of what I'm doing. People on twitter have pointed out in their comments that it can also be useful for others: not only for the fictional Professor Awesome who is only waiting to make you a job offer, but also, for example, for students who would like to apply for a PhD at your department and are interested to get more information about what people in the department are doing.
included information about ongoing projects, published articles, and
projects-on-hold. Including information about unpublished projects could be
controversial: given that the preprints are presented alongside with published
papers, unsuspecting readers might get confused and mistake an unpublished
study for a peer-reviewed paper. However, I think that the benefits of making
data and materials for unpublished studies outweighs the cost. Some of these
papers are unpublished for practical reasons (e.g., because I ran out of
resources to conduct a follow-up experiment). Even if an experiment turned out
to be unpublishable because I made some mistakes in the experimental design,
other people might learn from my mistakes in conducting their own research. This
is one of the main reasons why I created the website: To make all aspects of
all of my projects fully accessible.
everything, there are pros and cons with creating a personal website. A con is
that some people might perceive you as narcissistic. There are many pros,
though: Especially as an ECR, you provide a platform with information about
your work which will remain independently of your employment status. You
increase your visibility, so that others can contact you more easily. You can
control what others can find out about you. And, finally, you can provide
information about your work that, for whatever reason, does not come across in
your publication list. So, in conclusion: I recommend to ECRs to make their own