The team behind the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly interest in the project’s online hub has grown. Here, Amy Mollett and Danielle Moran write of the blog’s transformation from an ‘additional extra’ to a key component of their dissemination strategy, and offer some suggestions for those who are considering how social media might work for their own projects.
The LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog originally began life as an additional extra; a tool to assist with the dissemination of our research results from a HEFCE-funded project aiming to demonstrate how academic research in the social sciences achieves public policy impacts, contributes to economic prosperity and informs public understanding of policy issues, economic and social changes. However, due to the overwhelming growth and interest in the blog, it has now taken on an entirely new role. The blog is now updated almost daily, with guest posts covering the REF 2014, academic communication, knowledge transfer, and social media for academic use. The blog’s contribution to the impact debate has, in its own right, been welcomed by the already existing active online community of academics and researchers, as more and more are turning to the blogosphere in an effort to increase their public engagement.
We recently decided to try to compile a list of academics on Twitter that we could recommend to readers. In an effort to ensure that a strong selection from across all disciplines was included, making the lists a useful resource for all tweeters, we wrote a short blog post and tweeted about our task, inviting our readers and followers to tell us which academic tweeters they would recommend. We knew that the people who read the blog come from a range of disciplines, viewpoints and locations around the world and hoped that by asking this incredibly varied audience we might receive some unique and interesting suggestions.
The response was nothing short of astounding. Responses listing academics from across disciplines appeared on our blog post within minutes of the invitation being published, and lists of names rained in across our Twitter feed. Recommendations of interesting academic tweeters are still being sent to us weeks later, and the lists are now available to view online. Later this month we will be publishing a free downloadable guide to using Twitter for university research, teaching and impact activities, and it was great to have so many interested in contributing to this larger project.
A certain level of scepticism surrounding academic blogging and online self-publishing remains, but, as Charlotte Frost recently wrote, we should welcome the evolution of new types of communication. Good writing and editing are not practices that are limited to the printed page, and regardless of whether authors choose to reject traditional methods of academic publishing in favour of blogging or decide to blend the two options, there is a recognizably positive space for blogging and the potential it holds. Like many projects with an online component, we have found that publishing brief posts about our research has opened our work up to an audience who might not otherwise stumble across us. Additionally, the blog allows us to engage in a dialogue with our readers that we would never be able to duplicate without the online medium.
The Impact of Social Sciences blog embraces the principles of good writing and editing and its model is similar to that of PhD2Published: it is also a multi-author blog and hosts a number of different, and dissenting, voices. Hosting so many writers enables us to publish material from differing perspectives and on a vast range of topics that all tie into wider ideas of measuring impact. Often, we find ourselves refreshed as we are approached by writers-to-be that foster new ideas and arguments. This process also allows us to tap deeper into the wider research community and create new relationships with research groups and individuals.
Our readership now spans countries across the globe and last month alone our blog posts received over 11,000 views. As we can communicate with such a wide audience, our blog has enabled us to draw much greater attention to our research and to attract more interest in our events. We can initiate productive dialogues with individual researchers and departments who have inspired us, but who we hope also benefit from the work that we publish. We would strongly recommend other projects, as well as individual academics and researchers to set up blogs or Twitter accounts – the community is receptive and interested in what you have to say, and may very well become the perfect tool for dissemination and discussion.