14th ESSE 2018: Transferring knowledge within academic and institutional contexts: A focus on new and hybrid digital genres

Corona, Isabel: “A window to the world: Visual design and research visibility of European research projects homepages”


The growth and specialization of scientific output and the increasing prevalence of transnational collaborative efforts in academia have led researchers to seek greater visibility within a highly competitive playing field, while creating a need to optimize the dissemination and transfer of their research results. At the same time, we are witnessing the advent of new ways of working and teaming up that leverage information and communication technology. The websites of European research projects (using English as the international language of communication), are a crucial means to spread research outputs and increase the projects’ visibility, credibility, and reputation.

Websites, as an internet product, “enable a new communication setting” (Giltrow and Stein 2009: 9), because they provide us with a multimedia content: they include written text, images, audio, video, and interactivity. All these affordances make meanings as a multimodal ensemble. The purpose of this study is to gain insight into the multimodal affordances that are actually put to use by the European research groups in their websites as a means of facilitating visibility and impact of their work.

The study follows a convenience sampling method: a corpus of 10 websites from H2020 research projects in which a member of the University of Zaragoza (Spain) participated. The analysis focuses on the homepage as the non-linear entry point of the website and draws on Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006) account of the structures or ‘grammar’ of visual communication and on Martinec and van Leeuwen’s (2009) framework for the analysis of new media design. 

In short the present study ultimately seeks to explore in which ways and to what extent this screen-based communication, that is, this ‘synergic’ construction of meaning (Unsworth and Cléirigh 2009) in this specific context facilitates visibility of research and researchers.