What Makes a
Marc J. Kuchner
Have you ever wondered what your colleagues think of your website? I have. I know from experience
that our peers judge us partly by our
presence on the Web. Hiring committees often search online to learn more
about job candidates, and review panels use our sites to help decide whether
to fund us.
So I did an experiment to learn a
bit more about what our colleagues
look for in a website. I organize a
Facebook group called Marketing for
Scientists, where scientists, engineers
and other interested professionals discuss issues related to science communication, science advocacy and STEM
(science, technology, engineering and
mathematics) careers. I suggested to
the group that we take turns examining each other’s websites and critiquing
them. Altogether, 26 people volunteered. They were a mix of faculty and
postdocs, with a few science communication professionals thrown in.
I made a list of all the websites, and
I emailed everyone with assignments.
I asked each volunteer to review three
URLs. I instructed them to play with
each site for a minute or so and then to
write a few sentences about what they
c How could the site be improved? Marc J. Kuchner
Courtesy of Marc Kuchner
More and more scientists are creating their own
websites to showcase their careers and interests.
What constitutes a successful site to our peers?
The answer might surprise you.
c Does the site make you want to find
a way to work with him/her?
At first I was worried that there would
be no responses. If you’ve ever organized
a meeting or a review panel of scientists,
you know how hard it can be to stir our
kind into collective action. But then a
few eager folks sent in their critiques,
initiating a chain reaction. Soon my
inbox was flooded, and the constructive
criticisms provided a wealth of information and some real surprises.
In today’s world of social
networking, it’s easy to
forget about good old-fashioned email, but this
mode of communication
is still vital.
liked and didn’t like. I asked them to
address the following questions:
c What impression does the site give
about the person who made it?
First, I heard a cry for more basic information. Andras Paszternak, a chemist
at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
and the founder of The International
NanoScience Community social network, suggested that scientists place an
email address on their home page. In
today’s world of social networking, it’s
easy to forget about good old-fashioned
email, but this mode of communication
is still vital.
Next, I heard a broad demand for
more images and video. “I would supplement your homepage with more graphical
things,” said Robert Vanderbei, chair of
16 | OPN Optics & Photonics News