“Blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now.”
Here are some prime quotes from an interview with Patrick Dunleavy and Chris Gilson of the London School of Economics Public Policy Group about why scientists are obliged to communicate with those who live in the real world (not academics).
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 So the public pay for all our research, and then we shunt back to them a few press releases and a lot of out-of-date academic junk.
We believe that BPP [their blog British Politics and Policy] has been successful because we try relentlessly to promote public understanding of social science and to go deeper into issues than conventional media allow. On British TV and radio academics (at least up until now) have tended to be the ‘talking heads’ in interviews and news articles, offering short comments, with little detail and no links to their wider work. British newspapers are also run chiefly by people with English literature or history backgrounds, who seem to view data and charts and evidence as anathema.
Yet we appeal to the huge and growing population of well-educated graduates who know a lot about politics and policy areas and want to know more. A few years ago, these folk were flocking to the BBC supersite, but now government cuts and newspapers criticisms have forced the BBC to cut back its text offerings to a shadow of its former self.
We don’t think single-author blogs are a sustainable or genuinely useful model for most academics – although all praise to the still many exceptional academics who can manage to keep up the continuous effort involved. By joining together and forming multi-author blogs, academics can mutually reinforce each other’s contributions. We have 350 authors now on BPP, so if they blog with us twice a year we can post two posts a day without too much difficulty (as we do). And there are many synergies – for example, readers who come for a blog on political developments may stay reading for comments on social policy, or constitutional reform. On a multi-author blog, you often benefit from the content that others provide, and they often benefit from yours.