Three Top Tips for Disseminating and Amplifying your Research

Patrick Bijsmans |

On Friday 24 November 2023, I had the pleasure to contribute to the UACES Graduate Forum Doctoral Training Academy again. During the event I shared my thoughts on ‘Creating Impact: Disseminating and Amplifying Your Research’. These thoughts have been very much shaped by my career as an academic.

 

I like to describe myself as an academic who works at the intersection of research, teaching and learning, and leadership. Like most of you, I do all the things that are expected from academics, including visiting conferences and workshops and publishing research. But the latter concerns not just disciplinary research – in my case on media and Euroscepticism – but also research on teaching and learning (someone once called me a “confused, schizophrenic researcher”, which, to the surprise of the person in question, I took as a compliment).

 

In many ways, my academic career has been shaped by me agreeing to take on the position of programme director of Maastricht University’s Bachelor in European Studies in 2010, shortly after having completed my PhD. This was simultaneously the best decision of my academic career and the one I have regretted most. Upon reflection, it is a decision that I regretted, because it put my research on hold for nearly four years at a time in which I should have drawn articles from my PhD dissertation and should have applied for research funding. Yet, my decision to take on that role has also been my best decision, because it defined what type of scholar I am today.

 

I have always enjoyed doing research, but I also love teaching and I enjoy taking on administrative and managerial roles. I have tried to use this experience to develop and present ideas and, eventually, to carve out a second line of SoTL (Scholarship on Teaching and Learning) research. Sometimes these things come together in a way that allows me to borrow from all these experiences. For instance, I have recently started work on a new EU textbook that is based on my experience in and research on problem-based learning (a form of active learning).

 

Based on this experience, I have three tips for you. All three of these tips come with challenges, of which time to engage and to process what you learned stands out most. Some people at your university (or outside) may also not appreciate doing what follows below – it worked for me, but do talk to your supervisor. And, finally, you also need to build experience and confidence. That’s why I present my three tips starting with the least and ending with the most challenging one.

 

  1. Tell your students about your research

I teach courses in European politics and academic research and writing. Like most of you will have experienced too, I am often unable to teach subjects that exactly fit my research expertise. But courses on academic skills and methods may be just as good an occasion to share research. Students often ask very different questions and put forward comments that you probably will not hear from your colleagues. Unexpected comments and questions often will be useful in figuring out how to present your research, to fellow colleagues at conferences and in your writing.

 

  1. Other genres of writing are great for learning how to become a better writer

I used to blog on Brexit for E-International Relations and am currently (co-)moderator of the UACES blog portal Ideas on Europe and the FASoS Teaching & Learning Blog. Writing blogs is a particularly good way to become a better writer, plus it will help you to test and further develop research ideas. But you can also use them to present a recently published article in a more succinct and attractive way to a broader audience. Social media can have the same effect, be it in a shorter format (which is not to say that it will be easier to write a good social media post or thread).

 

  1. Public engagement should be part of your work and may help you become established as an expert.

I believe that academics should contribute to society – and not just by writing academic articles that are only read by a few people. By engaging with media and attending non-academic events you will also be confronted with unexpected comments and questions. My most enjoyable experience so far was talking about the EU to high school kids a few years ago. Do make sure to only say ‘yes’ to talking about topics that you are sufficiently familiar with (which will still be more than your small area of expertise). But you will surely get useful comments and questions that will help you to better present your work to others.

 

Patrick Bijsmans is Associate Professor in Teaching & Learning European Studies and Associate Dean for Education at Maastricht University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Feel free to reach out to Patrick for advice or with your questions:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrickbijsmans

Twitter/X: https://twitter.com/PatrickBijsmans

Website: http://patrickbijsmans.weebly.com