Talk to as many people as possible, ask lots of questions, take as many opportunities as possible to meet with other researchers, professional services, non-specialists and other stakeholders: both internally and externally.

Develop your Visibility, Reputation and Networks

Develop your profile and identity

Your fellowship is the time to build a strong profile.  Have a strategy for this, and discuss it with your mentor. Firstly, make sure you can be found:

  • The first place that people will find you online is your professional web page at Imperial.  Is it up to date? Does it reflect your current research interests and outputs?
  • Where else can you be found if potential collaborators look for you online?  What will they find? Will their findings reflect you as a fellow? Are you using the best social media tools?

Consider your use of social media:

The volume of social media tools can be overwhelming, so keep it simple.  Decide the main aim for your use of social media: is it to create a community? Is it to provide information or commentary on a particular topic? Is it to share your research ideas or approaches?  Pick just one or two main tools that you will use to achieve these aims.  Use the support available to develop your web skills, including social media and writing for the web.

A selection of useful social media guides for researchers:

Don’t be put off by the volume of information on social media.  There are many very useful blogs and twitter feeds that will provide you with support and information that will help you with your research.  As a starting point, look at:

  • The Research Whisperer blog - dedicated to the topic of doing research in academia.  Focussing on funding, research culture, and building academic track-records
  • #Acwri – twitter discussion and peer support group for all those with an interest in academic writing

Connect with potential collaborators

Of course the best way to find collaborators is by doing great research that attracts attention, and by getting out and going to conferences, seminars and meetings, and engaging in as many conversations as possible. 

Think carefully about how and why you will find collaborators – some useful suggestions and issues to reflect on are listed in Sara Shinton’s ten steps in collaboration for researchers in her blog on ‘Luck’ which talks about how successful researchers create opportunities through developing and taking control of networks.

There is also a usefully curated selection of blogs on all aspects of building successful collaborations provided by Science magazine.

If you want to try out some different methods to extend your network, some suggestions are:

  • Attend networking events being held locally at Imperial
  • Ask your mentor to introduce you or help you to make connections
  • Connect with others via social media - many of Imperial’s researchers and research groups are using social media – have a look at the directory of social media and make sure you are connecting with the relevant people and conversations.
  • Find partners for funding bids through the CORDIS partner service which finds partners for EU funding bids
  • Try out researcher networking and collaboration sites like Piirus - website helping researchers to identify and connect with collaborators across all disciplines, countries and sectors.

Promote your work and engage with others: outreach and public engagement

Think carefully about how you can broaden the audience for your research, and include others in the research process at all stages.  Imperial’s Communications service can offer you general and bespoke advice on working with the media and telling a story about your research

Volunteer with the Outreach team to be a tutor or mentor or work with them as a STEM activity leader or develop a practical class for school children via the Reaching Further programme for early career researchers.  Or you could choose to run your own event – just ask for support from the Outreach team. There are also many opportunities to be involved with Imperial Festival. 

We need to get out into the real world and see the importance of getting a broader view from people out there.  I was skeptical about outreach and public engagement but must admit I have really enjoyed this and the children I've worked with have enjoyed and benefitted from it. I have always believed in equal opportunities and from my outreach activities I see there is a real need to get into schools in areas under-represented in higher education to encourage all children to participate in science.” Dr Lesley Hoyles, MRC Intermediate Research Fellow, Department of Surgery & Cancer