Enhance your research networking platform, the UCSF way

Golden Gate Bridge

CTSI at UCSF has invested in increasing the usage and usability of UCSF Profiles, our research networking system. Based on our presentation at the 2012 IKFC meeting, here are our top 5 technical tips on how to increase the impact of your institution’s investment in research networking platforms, based on our past three years of work.

1. Measure

You can’t understand how you’re doing without measuring usage.

  • Install Google Analytics, then learn how to use this incredibly powerful tool (make sure to segment on-campus vs. off-campus traffic by setting up advanced segments based on service provider)
  • Register your site on Google Webmaster Tools to understand how search engines see your data

2. Optimize for search engines

UCSF Profiles gets over 50,000 visits a month. 72% of that traffic comes from search engines, primarily Google. Here’s how to increase traffic from search engines:

  • Implement a sitemap containing links to all your people profile pages, and make sure Google sees it using Google Webmaster Tools
  • Add a readable meta description (e.g. “Jane Doe’s profile, publications, research topics, and co-authors”) to your profile pages so they look better in search engine results
  • Add Schema.org data about your people on people profile pages
  • Advanced: use rel=canonical to prevent different versions of the same content from being indexed

3. Build inbound links

Linking is a critical way to both increase site traffic, and to signal importance to search engines.

  • Get websites large and small at your institution to link to your site (two years after launch, there are over 100 websites at UCSF that link to one or more pages on Profiles)
  • Encourage heavy linking to individual profile pages, e.g. from the campus directory, news articles, departmental profiles

4. Reuse data

Your research profiling system comes with APIs. Encouraging campus-wide reuse of this data can increase the impact of your investment. See opendata.profiles.ucsf.edu to see how UCSF is marketing this data.

  • Learn how to use your system’s APIs, so you can share that experience with others
  • Publicly document how the APIs work, and include sample source code
  • Reach out to campus technologists and webmasters to demonstrate how easy it is for them to reuse your data (e.g. the inclusion of Profiles data in UCSF’s mobile app was the result of technologist outreach)
  • Reach out to campus leaders to show them what kind of efficiencies they can gain by reusing your data (e.g. the inclusion of links to researcher profiles on the UCSF Directory was the result of a strategic partnership)

5. Extend with ORNG (advanced)

ORNG (OpenSocial Research Networking Gadgets) is a plugin system that allows you to add new apps into instances of Profiles or VIVO. Apps are written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and are easy to share and reuse.

  • Install ORNG (OpenSocial) into your copy of Profiles or VIVO
  • Add new apps from the ORNG library of free apps
  • Write your own apps — most JavaScript programmers can get started in hours

Good luck! Feel free to leave comments and questions on this post—we’re happy to share what we know.

P.S. Thinking about how to make your campus equipment/services more discoverable? Try UCSF’s Plumage, the open source platform behind UCSF Cores Search.

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