University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Hi all. I am in charge of 5 School/Department websites within my university. We regularly reinforce that we are a "research intensive" University, which is true, but not necessarily for all the departments/schools across the University.

 

At the moment I am struggling with trying to satisfy the primary users (prospective and current students) of the sites while satisfying the academics belief that their research needs to occupy prime real estate on the sites.

 

The stats show that the research sections don't get many hits. Not surprising, since 17 year old prospective students, for the most part, couldn't care less about the research of the academics - it's only the academics who care about their work.

 

My question is, is it worth pushing research via a department website that is used by multiple audiences (but mostly students), or are academics still likely to go to other sources for research first - i.e. journal articles, specific academic communities, etc.

 

My other problem is that our academics say they don't want to discuss/publish research that is incomplete, they dont want to do discussions because any comment they make might lead someone else to some fabulous research, and they cant publish research once it's finished (because obviously it's meant for academic journals etc). So I've basically made the point that they have nothing to offer anyway, so why do they deserve so much effort and space?!

 

How does everyone else serve the research interests of their university? I wish we could centralise it here, but its not an option.

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Hi Catherine,

We are also a research-intense, technical university. Surprisingly, we have found that not only graduate students, but also undergraduate students find our research interesting and consider it a decision-making point to come here.
We have a research intensive faculty body in the College of Engineering here at MU.

Andrew's totally correct — research is a really great thing to emphasize to students, especially grad students. Grad students are interested in two things: 1) How much are you going to pay me? 2) Which faculty member do I want to do research for?

We maintain a research bio page for each faculty member and prod them to keep them updated.
I always believe there is a happy medium to most problems and I would say that there is in your case as well. I think showing some sort of surface level explanation of what research is taking place would be a great marketing aspect to prospective students. I don't think you would need to go into grand detail, maybe even only focusing on those research projects that are completed. The hard sell is to make sure all the stakeholders know that marketing to prospective students requires less academic ease that posting a 100 page thesis on the migrating patterns of the mole rat.
I completely agree with this, Ryan. You don't need to "publish" the research, you only need to highlight what is being/has been studied. That's often enough for the prospect audience to see the value and become intrigued.
It's a perpetual argument that is had at colleges, and more often than not the debate is settled by somebody who has a strong personality and can push through one side over the other. You need to outline a goal for this particular website. If the goal is that you are trying to promote to prospective students, generate attention and activity for the website, and, ultimately, sell the product, then you have to promote the student-centric / marketed website approach to the faculty.

Faculty who resist this will likely need to be pacified, and the best approach may be to have two separate projects: the main project and the one that is most important is that of marketing the program; a secondary project is setting up a website where academic research can be shared and published. This site of academic research can then tie into the main site, and you may choose which elements you want to tie in: academic spotlights promoting the most interesting or marketable research/discoveries would help enhance the academic stature of the student focused website, while also placating faculty.

If some faculty have a problem with some research being "spotlighted" and not all, then they need to grow up.

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