How to Put Your Poster in the Cloud

Source background image by dotcompals

Imagine walking up to a poster, snapping a QR code with your smartphone, and being connected to a permanent and citable version of that poster on the web. From there, you’re a click away from connecting to the authors, reading an associated manuscript, embedding the poster in a website, or sharing it with your contacts. With the data repository figshare, this is easy to arrange.

For authors, putting your poster online grants an additional benefit: figshare collects item-level metrics on everything you post there (whether posters, datasets, or individual figures displaying your “negative results”). For those interested in new ways to measure research impact, this is a great thing. More broadly, it provides a venue for sharing and citing data that don’t fit in the relatively narrow (and time-consuming, and expensive) box of a peer-reviewed journal article. In fact, some of your data may already be on figshare—PLOS supplemental data are currently being automatically hosted there. Additionally, figshare allows you to embed content in any website, like this:

While preprint servers and new models of peer review may change the future of publishing, we could also see online repositories for posters and slides impact how information is disseminated at meetings. Uploading a copy of an existing poster is a simple way to get familiar with these services.

If you’re ready to upload your poster, follow these steps:

  1. Create an account at figshare.com.
  2. Click the upload button at the top of the screen and drag your files to the box.Cloud2
  3. Fill out the form, setting the article type to “poster,” adding your coauthors, tags, and a description. You can use the “links” section to point to any manuscripts or external information you want your audience to see.Cloud3
  4. Finally, select “Public” and hit “Save Changes” to give your poster a unique DOI and make it public on the web.
  5. When you do this, a QR code will be automatically generated (see bottom right).Cloud4
  6. Right-click on the QR code, save it, and insert it into your poster. You can test the QR code by taking a picture of your screen with your smartphone. Many apps, like Google Goggles, will automatically identify QR codes. If all is working as expected, re-export to .pdf for print!

If you’d prefer not to use figshare, you can also host the poster wherever you like. Free QR code generators like Kaywa will allow you to generate images that point to any url, and you can even use it to track views over time or reassign the url currently associated with a dynamic QR code.

Having your poster online gives you another way to disseminate your research in a format that’s easier to follow and more visually stunning than a paper. Putting a QR code on your normal poster at a meeting lets the people who find your research interesting show it to their whole lab when they get back home. You can put the code in other places, too: Add it to your CV to show a potential employer what your research is really about. It’s hard to resist scanning one!

About the Author:


Jessica Polka is director of ASAPbio, a biologist-driven nonprofit working to improve life sciences communication. She is also a visiting scholar at the Whitehead Institute and a member of ASCB's public policy committee.

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