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Blogging, open access and new forms of publishing in academic careers

The slides from a talk at the Woolcock Institute, University of Sydney, on open publishing, blogging, and online writing in career perspective. Drawing on personal experience writing a weblog and maintaining large online academic community, these slides offer some basic advice and resources for enhancing one's impact through online publishing.

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Blogging, open access and new forms of publishing in academic careers

  1. 1. and new forms of publishing in career perspective. Blogging, open access Greg Downey Associate Professor of Anthropology Career Development Session Woolcock Institute of Medical Research
  2. 2. My background: blogging for collaboration (conference, volume… Blogging trajectory from personal to network (PLOS Blogs)
  3. 3. Why be online? Community of researchers as well as public. The ‘public’ includes researchers in other disciplines. Leverage online publication to increase impact of publications. Most photos from, public domain
  4. 4. Clarifying the situation • Quantification of research through publication and grants (ERA). • For science fields, citations crucial. • All academics are time starved. • Employment market for academics varies, but not brilliant. • Online activity (blogging, Twitter) is a time waster, for those who have time to waste — making sure it’s not that for you with boundaries.
  5. 5. What should I do first? Capture your online identity. My Google problem was this other ‘Greg Downey’ (might be embarrassing photos, prior work ID…). The more I create valuable content, the more I push my own identity up in the search algorithms. Purchase website now (use simple Domain registration or even WordPress c. $15/year).
  6. 6. What should I do first? Clean up your online identity(?)
  7. 7. Establishing a basic presence 7 DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY Online CV + business card Personal webpage *not LinkedIn Ground zero for an online identity is to produce basic forms of self- archiving and distribution. May help to crowd out less appealing online identity elements. Google scholar Citation tracking + subject alerts Publication page, Research Gate. Sharing publications + non-published work
  8. 8. Personal homepage
  9. 9. Personal homepage • Especially early in career, better to have direct control over your web presence because of chance of institutional move (unis will delete your ID). • Simplest way is to use WordPress (blogging platform) or free/low cost service (Wixx, Weebly).
  10. 10. Networking: What platform should I use?
  11. 11. • Which platform to you use regularly? • All have drawbacks (commercial motives, limited reach, etc.). • One of my best experiences is with a closed Facebook group. I did not start it, but it’s become a remarkable community to share news. • Approaching 5000 members, with a couple dozen really active posters.
  12. 12. Blogging Why? How? Getting the most out of it.
  13. 13. Image from Bik HM, Goldstein MC (2013) An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists. PLoS Biol 11(4): e1001535. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.100153 5
  14. 14. • Australian innovation that’s now global (UK, US editions +). • Monthly audience of 2.5 million BUT because of Creative Commons licensing, 19 million readers of TC content. • Not-for-profit, academics, no ads, free to the public. • 20k+ academics are registered authors.
  15. 15. • Audience is highly education but 80% are NOT academics. • Editors work with authors to get the writing style correct (no jargon, links rather than citations, etc.). • Great training in writing for general audience. • Register as an author to pitch ideas to the editors (they control who writes and what gets published). • Can lead to great knock-on public outreach (republication, interviews, and follow-up stories).
  16. 16. But what about starting my own blog?
  17. 17. Starting your own… • Challenge to build an audience (consider guest post or network). • Use blogging to increase impact of your academic publications. • In some fields, majority of publications NEVER cited (no impact). Blogging and Tweeting about science has been shown empirically to increase impact & citation.
  18. 18. Writing for a blog. 20 DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY • Keep it short. Ideally <2000 words (really <1000 is better). • Write early, write often, write short. • Blog is conversation, not finished product. • Choose the right platform (WordPress). • Titles like headlines, not journal articles. • Use aggregator (Science Seeker - LOC). • Join a network? Guest post? • Consider media — photos, infographics, YouTube/Vimeo videos, podcasts. • DON’T STEAL images or content (Pixabay, Flickr with attribution).
  19. 19. If you’re going to blog… 21 DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY • Get a comments policy (I’m controlling; zero trolls). • Use targeted Twitter to maximise blog impact (and impact of published work). • Get good metrics (Google Analytics). • Put blog post links into your online identity (, personal page, LinkedIn). • Blog about your scholarly writing (timing). • Blog generously (but don’t count on reciprocity). • It’s okay to stop writing a blog!
  20. 20. After you write the blog… Getting a DOI for post (Figshare). Reposting on sites like Medium. I’m experimenting a lot with re-publication & even bundling for ebooks. The Winnower.
  21. 21. Making Twitter work for you. 23 DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY • In many fields, Twitter is powerful vehicle for sharing new research. • Use hashtags. • Build following by targeted retweets, acknowledgments, and use. • Provide valuable information! (Include fact, not just link…) • Share bits of info from research. • Twitter has essentially replaced ‘comments’ on blogs (very few). • Comment on other people’s research.
  22. 22. Image from Bik HM, Goldstein MC (2013) An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists. PLoS Biol 11(4): e1001535. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001535 Online communication fears
  23. 23. Open publishing Why? How? Getting the most out of it.
  24. 24. from Priem, Jason. "Scholarship: Beyond the paper." Nature 495.7442 (2013): 437-440.
  25. 25. Why open access? 27 DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY • Estimated that 2 million articles published each year. OA increases likelihood of being read & cited. • It’s Australian Research Council policy (as of 2013)! • Ethical and practical reasons to support OA. • HOWEVER, profession demands certain forms of publication. • Find out the self-archiving options available at your target journals. • Become familiar with the ‘predatory publishers’ list. Beall’s List:
  26. 26.
  27. 27. Conclusion Publishing with an eye to the future – yours & ours. Intermission
  28. 28. Conclusion • New technologies creating new opportunities, constrained by old structures (including promotion & hiring). • Change will come, so we can write on an emerging landscape. • Change needs to be driven by mid-career academics (if junior academic, be smart: balanced & leverage online writing; don’t specialise in new media UNLESS that’s your field). • Exciting new opportunities & bright spots, especially given how bleak some of publishing is.
  29. 29. Thanks for your attention.
  30. 30. Resources • Blogging - WordPress, Blogger • Science blogging aggregator: Science Seeker (free registration required). • Getting DOIs: Figshare, The Winnower. • Creating publications pages: or ResearchGate (RG more for sciences; Academia for social sci). • Public domain images: Wikimedia commons, Pixabay. • Google Scholar allows personal accounts to easily track citations of your work (even if flawed, good alert function).