Report on OpenUP Innovative Dissemination Training Workshop 20th June 2018, Graz

Tony Ross-Hellauer, Bianca Kramer, Jon Tennant, Michela Vignoli, Peter Kraker


On 20th June 2018, in collaboration with Graz University of Technology and the University of Graz, OpenUP hosted a training workshop on “Increasing Visibility and Impact through Innovative Dissemination” in Graz, Austria. The workshop was open to early career researchers and doctoral students of all institutions. Through expert presentations and interactive breakout sessions, participants learned more about how to increase the impact of their research via novel tools and methods, including how to reach the media, industry, policymakers, and wider society. The interactive programme included talks and interactive breakout sessions from invited speakers (Bianca Kramer, Jon Tennant and Peter Kraker) and OpenUP experts (Michela Vignoli and Tony Ross-Hellauer). Members of the Graz University of Technology and University of Graz teams for publications services and public relations were also on hand to share their knowledge and learn more about how they could help their researchers.


First Tony Ross-Hellauer gave the welcome to the workshop, introducing the OpenUP project, explaining the aims and outlining the programme ahead. See the presentation and slides.

Bianca Kramer asked participants to reflect on “Where are you now?”, inviting participants to introduce themselves and explore what they are currently already doing with regards to research dissemination, what they hope to achieve and how they check whether their current strategies are actually working. See the presentation and slides.

Tony Ross-Hellauer presented “10 simple rules for innovative dissemination”, explaining that research dissemination in the 21st Century isn't just articles, books and conference presentations. Open Science shows the way ahead towards dissemination that is participatory, innovative and reaches beyond the boundaries of academia. See the presentation and slides.

Michela Vignoli presented “How can you reach businesses and the public? Draft guidelines by the OpenUP project”. Many researchers face challenges in terms of innovative dissemination approaches. To support researchers who are not experienced in communicating their research to businesses and the general public, in OpenUP we aim at creating recommendations and simple guidance for them on how to plan and organise their dissemination strategy accordingly. In this talk, the OpenUP guidelines for communicating research to businesses and the general public were presented and useful tips for planning your own dissemination strategy were given. See the presentation and slides.

Finally, Jon Tennant discussed “Using social media to build your digital profile”: Social media are a critical part of any modern researcher’s toolkit, helping them to disseminate their research and reach new audiences. At the same time, this helps to enhance your career potential by diversifying your skillset and raising your public profile. Here, we outlined the top social media platforms for researchers, and how to use them to maximise your research engagement and online presence. See the presentation and slides.

Breakout sessions

The afternoon invited participants to attend two of six breakout sessions on diverse themes regarding innovative dissemination.

Breakout A: “Shaping your online presence: pros, cons, and strategy” (Jon Tennant): This session focused on the different social media outlets available for researchers, and what the potential benefits and drawbacks of each might be. Attendees created their own simple social media strategies to help them maximise their online impact.

The attendees were focused on two main themes: How to share their research online to reach wider audiences, and how to communicate about that research most effectively. In particular, many decided to build a new online presence through a personal website, use of dissemination platforms like the Open Science Framework and Twitter, and also to discuss with their research supervisors what would be best overall for their research teams.

Breakout B: “What’s in it for me?” (Bianca Kramer): Sharing your research is not only of use to others, it can also bring tangible benefits for yourself. In this session, we explored mutual benefits of outreach at different stages of the research cycle, including how to handle feedback/criticism.

In this session, we first identified participants’ motivations for entering their chosen research fields, tapping into their personal enthusiasm about research. Participants then made a selection of dissemination practices they thought were particularly useful, and tried to define what the benefits of these would be for them personally. Finally, we discussed barriers to implementing these practices, which included personal factors like self-doubt about skills and insecurity about approaching new audiences. The practices chosen were:

  • Crowdsourcing research topic prioritization
  • Sharing your discovery process
  • Writing collaboratively
  • Archiving and sharing code
  • Archiving & sharing presentations
  • Presenting for the general public
  • Appearing on radio/television
  • Writing for general magazines/newspapers
  • Presenting and giving demo’s for children (e.g. in primary/secondary education)
  • Creating dedicated outreach video
  • Making expertise findable, accessible, visible & available when you need it
  • Creating and maintaining on online researcher profile
  • Using academic social networks to find communicate with other researchers  
  • Making expertise findable, accessible, visible & available when you need it

The following potential (personal) benefits were identified. For some of these, we had further discussions to get from a benefit for the audience to a truly personal benefit.

  • Getting funding
  • Recruiting people
  • Troubleshooting
  • Reaching the target audience
  • Structuring your work
  • Recognition
  • More relevant research questions
  • Engaging the next generation
  • Sensitize teachers & university administrators to specific issues
  • Helping me to communicate complex ideas in simple ways
  • Collaboration
  • Help future career

Breakout C: “How do I get my research to show up in search engines and discovery tools?” (Peter Kraker): Search engines and discovery tools are how other people find your research. But how do you make sure that your publications are included in current and future services? This session provided lots of practical tips that participants can implement in no time to make sure that their research is found by their audience(s).

In this session, we focused on three main topics: (1) The benefits and limitations of current search and discovery tools such as Google Scholar and ResearchGate, (2) the inner workings of the digital open science system works and how it enables innovative services such as Open Knowledge Maps (, and (3) how to increase one's chances of being found in a search and discovery engines. In groups, participants discussed their own use of literature search and discovery tools and shared their findings with the group. Based on the properties of these tools, we then discussed strategies on how to maximise discoverability, including the provision of complete metadata, the use of persistent identifiers, and assigning an open license to one's output. See the slides.

Breakout D: “Advantages and disadvantages of preprints and early dissemination” (Tony Ross-Hellauer): This session took a closer look at routes to the early dissemination of research outputs, specifically the use pre-prints (pre-peer review versions of academic manuscript shared freely online, often via pre-print servers like arXiv). Participants were asked to consider the advantages and difficulties of such dissemination, what differences exist across research domains, and what they could learn from each other, and which platforms, tools and practices could help. 

Through interactive discussion, participants identified all the main advantages of preprints, including establishing priority, speeding dissemination, and crowdsourcing comments on early work. They also discussed how different research cultures view preprints differently, and identified some drawbacks including that some journals discourage this practice (though it was noted this might be rather an argument in favour of changing journals than not pre-printing). 

Breakout E: “Shouting louder or shouting smarter? How to get you and your research noticed” (Jon Tennant/Bianca Kramer): What happens when social media backfires? This session looked at some of the optimal ways to use digital tools to maximise the reach and impact of research. Participants discussed what works well, what to avoid, and best practices for online engagement.

Attendees all shared stories on what worked well, and sometimes not so well, to discuss key things to look out for when communicating. One common theme was to make sure to promote your work, not just yourself, and what to do if you should meet any resistance online.

Breakout F: “Reaching industry, the general public and policy-makers with your research - a role play” (Michela Vignoli): In this session, we took a closer look at these target audiences and tried to understand why they are interested in research output, and how they like to receive information about research information. The participants slipped into the role of one of these target audiences as an experiment to think target group specific. Finally, the participants tested the OpenUP targeted dissemination guidelines.

The participants, divided in two groups, were asked to impersonate individuals from businesses (e.g. CEO of a big company) and policy makers (e.g. Minister for Environment) in a role play inspired setting. They had to come up with answers to the questions why these target audiences are interested in hearing about science in the first place, what information they are interested in, and for which purpose they need the information (i.e. how and in which context they plan to apply it). In this exercise the participants had to imagine being themself part of the targeted audience, which forced them to think in line with their target audience, and not from the point of view of a researcher. The groups collected the answers on a flipchart and thus created a profile/stakeholder analysis of the target groups. In a final round the groups sat together at one table and tried applying the four steps from the draft recommendations for communicating research to businesses and the general public by OpenUP to an exemplary research project.

Wrap-up and conclusions

At the end of the workshop, participants were brought together to discuss what one concrete next step they would take towards innovative dissemination of research in the days immediately following the workshop. Their answers show that the workshop was very successful in motivating them to take up new platforms and processes:

  1. Try twitter (7)
  2. Post and start using pre-prints (4)
  3. Try Open Knowledge Maps (3)
  4. Quit Researchgate (3)
  5. Self-archive papers/data/code on Zenodo with DOIs (3)
  6. Create own website (2)
  7. Try Open Science Framework (2)
  8. Create good metadata and keywords for research outputs (2)
  9. Search for alternatives to traditional publishers with restrictive practices (1)
  10. Make a dissemination strategy (1)
  11. Create an ORCID profile (1)
  12. Create Google Scholar profile (1)
  13. Share papers via Researchgate (1)
  14. Learn about hashtags  (1)

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