On the importance of blogging

Publish or perish!” is repeated.

“Academe shall impact!” is said.

Public funded research shall be in open access!” is the new meme.

In-between “dissemination” (through academic audiences) and “outreach” (towards the general public), the need for, and the ways through which, spreading the knowledge produced inside the academic world are being debated everyday more and more.

This debate is both a driver and an argument for this blog. On the one hand, this is a place for young academics (and practitioners, and activists) to share the knowledge they acquire and produce: a place where to measuring “our” capacity to talk to other audiences than those that share our competences and interests.

On the other hand, this blog will be a place where to debate about the ways through which academia do, want, can, shall communicate.

The LSE blog on the Impact of Social Sciences has been pioneering this debate.

I cannot refrain, in one of the very first posts of a new blog, to quote at length this 2012 interview with Patrick Dunleavy and Chris Gilson who state that “blogging is one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now”.

One of the recurring themes (from many different contributors) on the Impact of Social Science blog is that a new paradigm of research communications has grown up – one that de-emphasizes the traditional journals route, and re-prioritizes faster, real-time academic communication in which blogs play a critical intermediate role. They link to research reports and articles on the one hand, and they are linked to from Twitter, Facebook and Google+ news-streams and communities.  So in research terms blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now.
But in addition, social scientists have an obligation to society to contribute their observations to the wider world – and at the moment that’s often being done in ramshackle and impoverished ways, in pointlessly obscure or charged-for forums, in language where you need to look up every second word in Wikipedia, with acres of ‘dead-on-arrival’ data in unreadable tables, and all delivered over bizarrely long-winded timescales. So the public pay for all our research, and then we shunt back to them a few press releases and a lot of out-of-date academic junk.
Blogging (supported by academic tweeting) helps academics break out of all these loops. It’s quick to do in real time. It taps academic expertise when it’s relevant, and so lets academics look forward and speculate in evidence-based ways. It communicates bottom-line results and ‘take aways’ in clear language, yet with due regard to methods issues and quality of evidence. In multi-author blogs like this one, and all our blogs, it helps create multi-disciplinary understanding and joining-up of previously siloed knowledge.

Whether we want or not to de-emphasize traditional journals is an open question, as remarked by an article on the Antipode blog-website. It is a question that deserves insights about the role journals have been assuming during the last years (around concepts such as impact factors or peer-review): a question that is crucial for a blog such as this is.

Whichever the answer to the questions about journals, some concepts highlighted by Dunleavy and Gilson are crucial to the YA blog: real-time communication, obligations to society, clear language, methods and quality, multi-disciplinary understandings.

Submissions, on these themes, are warmly welcome!


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