by Pat Sabosik (General Manager, ACI Scholarly Blog Index; Phone: 203-816-8256)
There are a lot of reasons why scholars blog, not the least of which is to advance their research and refine their craft of writing and to clearly communicate their ideas in their field. Digital presence and reputation are also key drivers, especially for younger scholars and scientists. Their digital footprint will be bigger and broader than today’s scholars. Scholarly blogs, once considered ephemeral, are now becoming part of the scholarly record and an important component of a scholar’s work. Let’s look further into these topics.
Young scientists coming into the field are digital natives. They have an affinity for technology, are socially connected, and are driving a sharing economy. Blogging and a range of Internet-enabled social connections like Facebook, Twitter, Academia.edu or ResearchGate are a regular part of their lives. A social presence is important and can help scholars gain recognition in their field. Scholars need a digital presence to be discoverable; that’s where their peers, mentors, and funding agencies will find them. Using social media smartly, particularly blogging where commentary can be expanded, can help benefit the young scholars and bring attention to their work.
Digital commentary has to have substance as young scholars build their reputation as burgeoning experts in their fields. Commenting on trends in a thoughtful way through a scholar’s blog goes a long way towards building that digital reputation and showing mastery of an idea or topic — essentially, what does a scholar want to be known for? Maintaining profiles and activity on key social media resources becomes important as scholars build their digital resume and social presence.
How many scholars actually use blogs or social media? Will scholarly blogs be read and referenced? According to a Pew – AAAS study, “47% of AAAS scientists have used blogs or social media to discuss or follow science, 24% have blogged, 19% regularly follow blogs and 12% regularly follow Twitter in order to keep up-to-date.” Given the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of science, nearly 92% of AAAS scientists, in the same Pew study, “read a journal article outside of their primary specialty area in the past year and 57% published a study with a multidisciplinary team.” The same use of blogs and interdisciplinary practices can be traced to scholars in the social sciences and the humanities.
Funding and Publishing
In the same Pew study, 83% of AAAS scientists report “that obtaining federal research funding is harder today  than it was five years ago.” Industry funding and private foundation funding are also down. “Concerns about adequate funding are widely shared among scientists of all disciplines and employment sectors.”
Limits in funding have put restrictions on research and potentially the number of traditional outlets for publishing research results. In fast-developing fields like the life sciences, delays in the traditional publishing cycle make research results seem out-of-date when they actually are published. Couple these trends with the digital native behavior of young scholars and the scholarly blog becomes an attractive outlet for publication while they work through funding channels for more traditional sources of funding and publication and build their digital footprint.
With these demographic and economic shifts in research and scholarly publishing, blogs are an excellent vehicle for scholars to use to document their research and build their reputations through expert commentary, stay current on trends in their fields, and remain in touch with their readers. Scholarly blogs can be broad in scope or as specific as a journal article reporting on research outcomes. Scholarly blogs are at the forefront of their fields reporting on trends in advance of, or in some cases instead of, journal articles and can be found side-by-side with journal articles in the major discovery engines such as ExLibris Primo, Ebsco Discovery Service, OCLC World Cat and ProQuest Summon. This next generation of scholars will continue to push the boundaries of scholarly communication through blogs and other forms of scholarly discourse.
Pat Sabosik is the General Manager of the ACI Scholarly Blog Index, an editorially selected and curated collection of scholarly blogs covering all academic disciplines. Pat will be moderating a panel discussion: “Why We Blog – Reshaping Research, Captivating Tales from Academic Bloggers.” During the upcoming Charleston Conference October 31st to November 5th, in Charleston, SC.
Goldman Sachs, Millenials Coming of Age. http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/millennials/
Pew Research Center for Internet, Science & Technology January 2015. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/29/public-and-scientists-views-on-science-and-society/