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Why should researchers blog?

On 5th February I will be contributing to the Social Policy Research Unit seminar series on Social Research in the Digital Age at the University of York.

The series is exploring the increasing use of social media and other digital tools in social research. Topics will include the use of online tools to engage people in research and tips on using social media to increase the impact of research on policy and practice. All seminars are free and open for anyone to attend.

At my seminar I will be discussing my experience of micro and macro blogging as a method of engaging people in the research I’m undertaking. In particular, I will be talking about how I set up this blog to bridge the gap between social work research and practice by attempting to engage practitioners in both the process and outcomes of studies I’m working on. I think there is a long way to go to realise the potential of social media in bringing research closer to practitioners, but the optimistic side of me can see positive steps being taken towards this.

In my seminar I would like to address the question of why researchers should blog. I am particularly interested in the views of non-researchers about this question and I invite your thoughts. Do you think we should be using our time blogging about our work or just getting on and doing it? If you think it is worthwhile, why should researchers blog? Which blogs have you come across which effectively engage people in research, irrespective of the topic? What are the key things which researchers should avoid doing when blogging about their research?

Please leave your thoughts below, however brief or profound they might be. Alternatively, if you fancy doing it in 140 characters, please tweet me @mgoat73 using the hashtag #spru2013. The tweet stream for #spru2013 is visible below.

I will be sharing your comments at the seminar and will summarise them here in a later post. I’m sure that I will not be the only one to learn a lot from your thoughts!

6 thoughts on “Why should researchers blog?

  1. I run a site called holesinthewall, aiming to raise awareness of and disseminate information about parent abuse. Although this originally came out of a small research project I conducted as part of an MA, I would not consider myself a researcher. Nevertheless, I am always on the look out for new research, events, journal articles etc to publish on the site. I have good relationships with some researchers who always let me know what they’re up to – and its in their interests too to bring their findings to wider attention – but there are others who I find more frustrating.
    Granted blogging is only one means of letting people know what you’re doing, and I use twitter a lot too, but if researchers are not putting information out there then it is difficult for others to benefit from it. I understand that there are issues about publicising findings before work is completed, but in such a small field as parent abuse, every new journal or conference date is important.
    Perhaps people feel they don’t have the time on top of all the other writing they’re involved in. I’m not asking for much. One paragraph or even a few sentences to keep us up to speed! If there is a fixed place to go to find this information – their blogiste – it makes it all so much easier.

  2. Maria Fossi says:

    I completed a M.A. in Translation Studies last year. Recently I’ve been thinking about the possibility of going back to university and become a researcher.
    I’m trying to catch up on the latest developments in the field in order to develop my own research proposal, and it is frustrating (to say the least) the lack of information and even the confusion about what translation theory is and what the ongoing research topics are. I’ve even thought about signing up to another M.A. in translation just to “bridge the gap” and be ready for a PhD.

    Therefore, I would say that the first and most important reason for blogging about translation is to share information about the latest research projects, which are being undertaken by individuals as well as by university departments. This, I think, is vital to the development of translation studies as an academic subject and also to improve and expand cooperation and research on translation.

    Secondly, blogging about translation events and conference is fundamental. There are so many events going on, but they are not advertised enough. How are we going to encourage the exchange of ideas and networking in translation if only few people know what is going on? Moreover, those who take part in these events are, more often than not, professors who already work in university. While it is an honour and a privilege to listen to the leading experts in the field, I think that new people and non-academics would bring new life and ideas for research and widen the debate on translation and research.

    Translators and scholars in translation always complain about their “invisibility” (Jennifer Howard has recently published an article about this: http://chronicle.com/article/Translators-Struggle-to-Pro/63542/) It’s about time we did something about this, and I believe blogging and spreading news about translation studies and research can definitely help.

    PS: A very good blog on translation I have come across is the one from the university of Portsmouth (http://matsnews.blogspot.de/) …we need more blogs like this one!

  3. Ben Hannigan says:

    Yours is a great blog, Martin, and I’m wondering if soon the question will not be, ‘should researchers blog?’, but ‘why aren’t researchers blogging as a matter of routine?’

    I finally started blogging at the end of last year, largely with a view to letting people know about my research (which is in the field of community mental health care). In the two months since setting it up I’ve also used my blog as a place to write commentaries, short opinion pieces and general ramblings.

    When blogging about research, in addition to summarising and adding some context I’ve added links (where possible) to free versions of peer reviewed papers, and in all cases have used Twitter to publicise. With open access publishing it’s possible, obviously, to link directly from a blog to a full text article. It’s less straightforward where the paper is behind a subscription paywall, although I’ve found (with some exceptions) that many publishers permit post-peer review (or similar) versions of articles to be made freely available via institutional repositories. The words are the same, the layout is different.

    All the best.

  4. As a recent social worker on the frontline, I think there’s a feeling (well, it’s what I felt) that there is a massive distance between academia and practice particularly in social work. While I know there are some practitioner/academics, the information that some students came to placement with was years (and sometimes decades) out of date.

    I’m a great fan of blogging and think it’s a fantastic way for researchers and academics both to share and gain information and different perspectives and for them to be held accountable by the social work profession for the quality of the work they produce. I’ve suffered too many poor research papers to be blinded by letters after someone’s name but putting information ‘out there’ to be ‘peer reviewed’ not merely by other academics but by people who might use/benefit from the knowledge is a leap of faith but one that needs to be taken for credibility to be restored.

    Of course there are other ways apart from blogs, but the format is particularly well suited to conversations. I can’t see a reason why not!

  5. Jenni Brooks says:

    Thanks for this Martin, we’re very much looking forward to hearing your thoughts here at SPRU next Tuesday. Thanks also to everyone else for thoughtful comments.

    I love reading academic blogs, particularly those which talk about the process of doing research. I think as well as writing about the subject of the research, it’s also important to demystify the process – how do we decide which questions to ask, for example, and what the appropriate way is to answer them? What issues do we encounter when deciding who to interview?

    I’m particularly enjoying reading Pat Thompson’s blog at the minute:


    I think blogs also have a great role as a place to talk about ‘side’ issues that come up in research, those that aren’t central to the question being asked, and won’t appear in a journal article, but that prompt questions that may lead to further research later.

    I blog personally outside of work, so I’m comfortable with it as a medium, but as a fairly new contract researcher working on other people’s projects, I’m a little wary of putting my opinions out there for all to see. I wonder if feeling comfortable with this is something that comes more easily with experience and perhaps running your own research project?

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