The world we live in – #GR21

This is the second in a series of posts timed to coincide with the GR21 meeting. Keep an eye on CQG+ this week, for more posts on gravitational waves, the CQG Highlights and more.

Adam Day and the NYT building

Adam Day admiring the view from the top of the Rockefeller Center in NYC

I once had the experience of trying to find journal articles in an old bricks and mortar library. I spent a whole afternoon scouring a few thousand journal copies (and never did find what I was looking for). Information was scarce in those days and there were few ways to get it.

Watching scholarly communication develop since then has been interesting. In many ways, it’s now much easier to find papers – especially when you know exactly what you want to read. However, readers increasingly now find themselves faced with the opposite problem to that described above: too much information.

Gravitational physics is not getting smaller. And growth will no doubt accelerate with the birth of the new subfield of observational gravitational wave astronomy.

As an author, how do you get the best visibility for your work in this environment?

To answer this question, it’s important to understand that it’s not just the volume of information that’s changed, it’s also the way that people access it. There are a couple of trends to bear in mind.

Mobile usage

It might surprise you to learn that more than 50% of web media traffic comes from phones and tablets. This means that some of your readers will surely be spending time using these devices.

Now… you’ve probably noticed that your phone is not ideally suited to studying physics papers. The screen is small, you can’t scribble on it and, if you’re using a mobile, you are probably going to be sat on a bus or in another less-than-ideal environment for study. (Give me a quiet room and a printout any day!)

That said, would you read a blog post about a great physics paper on your phone? I know for a fact that your readers would. It’s among the reasons CQG+ has been so successful. CQG+ can get the key messages of your paper across to its readership: a broad audience of gravitational physicists, and it’s well suited to the modern world of mobile users (as well as desktop users).

Social media

“… a great Facebook post has become a better promotional device than a headline…”
– The New York Times Innovation report, 2014

What could be better than a free service that allows you to connect with your readers on a personal level and discuss research?

A small but significant proportion of traffic to CQG’s journal web pages and a huge proportion of CQG+ traffic come from social media. I use Twitter and Facebook to talk to CQG’s audience and if you aren’t already a social media user, I recommend that you try out these services. Social media isn’t for everyone, but it can be an effective way to connect with your readers (and it can’t hurt to try). To find other gravitational physicists on Twitter, take a look at who I follow.

It bears mentioning that social networking is the primary use for mobile apps. If you want to access that mobile traffic described above, then social media is the key.

The world we live in has changed. So while, as readers, we can delight at the abundance and ease of access of research, this brings new challenges for authors. CQG will help readers to find all the best reasons to read your work. Social media are just some of the tools we use for this and you can use these tools, too.

This post was all about some general trends that I have observed. For another perspective – this time from a different publishing industry – there was a very interesting and beautifully written analysis of website usage in the New York Times 2014 Innovation report. If you want to understand how the modern web works and perhaps get some ideas of how to make it work for you, this document would be a great place to start.

This post is made available under a CC BY 3.0 license

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About Adam Day

Adam Day is the former publisher of Classical and Quantum Gravity. His background is mostly in publishing, where he thoroughly enjoyed working with the gravitational physics community. He now works as a Data Scientist for SAGE Publishing.