First, I’d like to introduce myself…
…hi, I’m Brady – the new Blog Editor for the Regional Studies Association.
Get to know me
I began to write about growing up in western Newfoundland, but figured it was easier to just share an image. My hometown, Corner Brook (below), is the regional hub of western Newfoundland. As a predominately rural region, western Newfoundland prides itself on rugged, expansive landscapes.
Currently, I am working towards a Ph.D. in Rural Studies at the University of Guelph (remotely). My research interests intersect environmental stewardship, community development and extractive industries, and the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in decision-making processes. As a settler (non-Indigenous) scholar with Mi’kmaw ancestry, I explore the roles and responsibilities of researchers engaging in community-based participatory research.
Photo: Johanna Goodyear, Shutterstock
I am extremely pleased to be stepping into the Blog Editor role with the Regional Studies Association. I’d like to send a huge thank you to my predecessor, Josh Barrett. As I take on this new role, I wanted to take this time to highlight why – now more than ever – blogging is an integral part of the research process and can reshape academia in the 21st century. There is a growing movement away from prioritizing traditional forms of publishing in academic journals and toward accessible, engaging knowledge mobilization activities.
What is knowledge mobilization?
Also known as knowledge translation, exchange, or transfer, The Canadian federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) defines knowledge mobilization (KMb) as a “wide range of activities related to the production and use of research results, including knowledge synthesis, dissemination, transfer, exchange, and co-creation or co-production by researchers and knowledge users.” The global Research Impact Academy describes knowledge translation (KT) as a pathway to impact. One blog post defines KT as a process that effectively measures the impact of research. When considering the “impact” that your research may have, the post recommends that researchers…
“…avoid only using academic impacts, it’s almost a given that you will publish papers and present at academic conferences because if you don’t you will not get funding again.”
Similarly, Desiree Zerquera, Associate Professor in Leadership Studies at the University of San Francisco, warns that much of the “fruits” of research that is reported solely to academic audiences stop there, citing the inaccessibility of academic publications/conferences and the systemic inequality of whose voices are amplified within academic spaces. Instead, research presented in informal, non-academic venues such as blogs, op-eds, policy briefs, TED talks, and social media reach broader audiences and represent an integral form of KMb and KT.
Why should researchers blog?
There are many reasons why blogging is important for researchers (especially early in their career). A recent London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) Impact Blog lists five reasons why early career researchers (PhD students) should blog:
- Peer support.
- Finding a place within academia.
- Staying up to date with the latest research.
- Communicating research to wider audiences.
- Navigating life after PhD.
In addition to these benefits, funding and networking opportunities are two key incentives to start writing a blog.
Blogging to increase funding opportunities.
Planning for KMb or KT in the research process is gaining recognition as an integral piece of the research puzzle. Listing potential academic journals that will fit a particular project does not always earn merit by funding agencies. In Canada, for example, SSHRC indicates that “knowledge mobilization plans are evaluated when assessing the project’s feasibility and its potential for impact within and beyond the social sciences.” Recognizing the impact of research beyond the social sciences highlights the significance of research creating some tangible, measurable impact on society in general. So while blogging may benefit research collaborators, regional stakeholders, or the general public, blogging can, in fact, benefit researchers themselves.
Blogging to increase networking opportunities.
Establishing a strong network of supportive, like-minded colleagues is an incredibly important aspect of building a career as a researcher. The recent post from the LSE Impact Blog points to social networking as it relates to job openings or positions in specific fields of interest. Networking is increasingly difficult in the “new normal” of virtual events imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent Nature survey revealed that while virtual conferencing was favored due to its lower carbon footprint and increased accessibility, 69% of respondents noted poor networking opportunities as the biggest drawback of virtual conferencing. Writing blog posts connects researchers to professional organizations and colleagues in their field of interest. In my own experience, for example, I have made numerous connections by someone reading an opinion-editorial, blog post, or podcast that I have published and reaching out to learn more. At times, these connections have led to collaborations on future projects.
What are the barriers?
Some “wince” at the idea that blogging fits into the research process given the differences in “rigour” between blog posts and double-blind peer-review processes. One North American study investigated the importance of e-learning or blogging in the medical field and found that that only 23% of respondents (chairs of US and Canadian medicine and pediatric departments) assigned value to the effort of writing blog posts. Additionally, university researchers considering career advancement opportunities must consider the likelihood that promotion and tenure committees value refereed publications over blogging. However, recent evidence warns that promotion and tenure committees are more prone to cognitive bias by valuing publications in journals with high impact factors over other forms of KMb activities.
To challenge this status-quo, initiatives such as the Declaration of Research Assessment (DORA) are actively working to shift the paradigm away from traditional forms of measuring research impact and promote diverse forms of KMb and KT. For example, the DORA boasts 19,286 signers from 145 countries that value various forms of research outputs. These outputs validate collaborative, engaged community-based research. Publishing venues such as the RSA Blog contribute to this paradigm shift within regional studies, representing researchers across various disciplines.
To those who have reached it this far in my post I invite you to consider blogging. Writing for an established blog provides an opportunity to re-conceptualize complicated research results. Also, blogging can reach a broader audience and build networks of like-minded individuals. There are purposely no limits to the form that a blog post can take. For example:
- Summarize a recent journal article that was published.
- Present preliminary research results of an ongoing project.
- Write about an experience within a field of study that shaped the design of a research project.
Non-academic, evidence-based blogging has the potential to re-shape disciplinary boundaries in the 21st century and build on an existing genre of critical and accessible academic knowledge production – and not just to make my job as a blog editor easier!
Are you currently involved with regional research, policy, and development? The Regional Studies Association is accepting articles for their online blog. For more information, contact the Blog Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.