Written by Ryan Anderson and Dennis Relojo
One is just no fun, but two is the thing to do. Breaking news: nerdy academics have a romantic life too! But beyond building romantic alliances, let’s have a quick look on how researchers have been looking for collaborators online: in 2008, Academia.edu was launched to allow researchers to share their works and monitor research impact. On the same year, Mendeley and ResearchGate introduced similar services, with slightly different niches (Mendeley is mainly for literature search and citation, while ResearchGate is for creating connections).
Searching for a research collaborator is pretty much like searching for a date: you look for someone who shares the same passion and interests as you. After all, this commonality is what draws people together, and it’s the chemistry that gravitates us toward another person. The thing is, sitting on your hands and waiting for a suitable partner to come to you may not be the best tactic. Often a more proactive approach is needed.
Piirus solves this problem by essentially providing a platform where academics can make introductions and seek out potential collaborators. If you’re feeling alone, academically overwhelmed, or the academic equivalent of single-and-ready-to-mingle, Piirus can help you seek out other like-minded people. Since its main audience are PhD students and early career researchers (ECRs), Piirus does not rely on historical publications; yet members may choose to include their ORCID numbers, to showcase their research activities.
Founder, Fiona Colligan, tells the Business Insider: ‘Like a typical dating site, you complete a profile on yourself, express what you’re looking for from someone else and then look for matches.’ In essence, the service works on a very simple premise, one which is rooted in the needs of the research community. For instance, the net cast by the discipline of psychology is incredibly large. There are cognitive psychologists, social psychologists, health psychologists, forensic psychologist, and the list goes on (virtually forever). In addition, a great many of those regarded as psychologists are clinicians. A therapeutic clinician and an academic researcher can have little in common, in terms of their respective day-to-day. In truth, identifying someone as a ‘psychologist’ can be about as descriptive as saying ‘he/she likes animals’.
On top of being a ‘dating site’, Piirus also has a thriving blog community where it features a wide array of topics on research collaboration, tips for PhD students and ECRs, as well as various other higher education themes. Piirus frequently features guest blogposts from members either introducing themselves, offering advice on how to go about finding collaborators, or just giving general academic snippets of wisdom. For instance, on one blogpost, it has been explored how many academics could feel isolated. This could be because they are at a small university with an underwhelming support system, or they may just be lost in a sea of information and don’t really know how to sort the good from the bad. Either could be a potential barrier to finding one’s perfect research partner. But Piirus has a feature which effectively addresses this issue: members can search for potential collaborators by searching the keywords they use. So, let’s say, you are keen about evolutionary psychology, you would search for collaborators by typing in: evolutionary psychology (of course), brain evolution, evolution, or even evolutionary biology. Alternately, you could also use more specific keywords from your research interest, which in this case, could be: mate selection, dating, or mate copying.
Piirus further spreads its love to the research community by hosting Twitter chats, such as #piirusvoices, #piirustips and #letscollaborate. Leveraging on its Twitter presence, Piirus keeps it followers updated about events that might be of interest to its audience, such as conferences and vlogs. It also has a collection of infographics and videos to offer insights and advice to researchers. Piirus has a lot to offer, be it academic company, intellectual stimulation, or simply helping researchers find their perfect partner in research!
Whether you’re in search of a romantic partner or a research collaborator, you don’t need to feel isolated. With technology becoming more advanced, dating challenges become less of a hassle. In academia, researchers could take advantage of networking platforms such as Twitter and other academic networking services, to create meaningful and lasting partnerships. Piirus is a free and excellent service which brings together researchers who may be working in parallel fields, but because of geographical distance, or language of publication, remain unaware of each other’s research ‘chemistry’.
Piirus member Ryan Anderson has completed Bachelor degrees in Science, and Psychology (honours). He is currently completing his PhD candidature in Psychology, and recently began a blog exploring the science behind love, sex and attraction. He also writes for PsychologyToday (The Mating Game).
Dennis Relojo is a correspondent for Piirus, a global academic networking service which allows researchers to find potential research collaborators. He earned his MSc Research Methods in Psychology from the University of Hertfordshire, where he has carried out a research project on expressive writing as an intervention tool on exposure to thin-ideal images.