Being a researcher can, at times, feel like being trapped in an endless loop: proposals’ writing – research execution – results dissemination – repeat. This is just briefly interrupted by much deserved, as well as ephemeral holidays (and yet, I am writing this during my summer vacation). Also, there is the teaching, the networking, the peer-reviewing: all sorts of academic duties crowding an already over-populated calendar. We all know – scarce resources should be used parsimoniously, and time is the scarcest of them all for a researcher.
So, what’s with the call for researchers to work on their online presence? Is that a complete waste of everyone’s time? As you may start to suspect based on the innuendo of rhetorical questions, I want to invite you to consider the pros of writing a blog post on your sustainability-related research, thoughts, ideas, dreams or aspirations. As I am currently part of the editorial board of the blog you are reading, “Voices for Sustainability”, there is just a slight sense of agenda pushing behind my reasoning. But bear with me while I build my case. I wish to present three complementary perspectives.
The grey, utilitarian perspective
It is no secret that funders, research institutions and other relevant partners or stakeholders increasingly value dissemination of research findings and engagement with a broad and varied public other than the scientific community. Among multiple attempts to quantify research impact, there has recently been a rapid development of digital metrics. Metrics such as Altmetric and Plum Analytics are already available in your University page on Researchportal, keeping track of research performance online, including number of readers, views, downloads, citations and mentions in social media or other websites. In short, having your research cited in a website of popular science or in a blog contributes to accruing these metrics directly, as well as indirectly by widening the pool of potential readers and users (and yes, there is a narcissistic aspect to all of this, but hey, a tool is only as good as its user).
The personal growth perspective
If you are a confident writer, writing is fun, intriguing, rewarding. Blog writing is a completely different animal compared to scientific writing, and in that sense, it can be refreshing to present your work differently, perhaps in a lighter manner. Blogging can also be less intimidating than academic writing for the ones of us who are less inclined to pick up the pen. Overall, writing is about pushing boundaries and expanding that pesky comfort zone. In the process, you will have attempted to reach someone else out there, and he/she may become your next ally or (unexpected twist of events!) a respectable challenger.
The “we are the world” perspective
Popularization of science is among the means that can plant the seed of curiosity in a child’s mind; that keeps students from snoring through their school and university courses; that engages adults to update and renew their understanding of how this universe we happen to witness came to be, is at the present moment, and will or could evolve to be in the near and further on future. Sustainability on planet Earth is among the most compelling issues of contemporary society. Sustainability science, being an emerging and complicated realm of human knowledge, desperately needs ways to be communicated effectively and as timely as possible as well. At the end of the day, there is a good chance that sustainability researchers or aspiring ones are not working for wealth, power and glory, but for a sense of moral responsibility. Telling your story to others – yes, also with a blog post – is a part of the contribution you make.
Whether you are interested in improving the online visibility of your research, in finding your writer’s voice, or simply in sharing your ideas with the world, take contact with our editorial board.
Dalia D’Amato is Adjunct Professor at the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) and at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki