academic blogs: a labor of love

I recently discovered an articles about academics who blog from Tim Hitchcock (a humanities professor). The title really caught my eye: “Twitter and blogs are not add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion that underpins it.” Yes! We don’t have to create and maintain blogs, we do so because we love our disciplines and we love to share our passion:

The best (and most successful) academics are the ones who are so caught up in the importance of their work, so caught up with their simple passion for a subject, that they publicise it with every breadth. Twitter and blogs, and embarrassingly enthusiastic drunken conversations at parties, are not add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion that underpins it.

I like this summary of how blogging goes hand in hand with other academic activities, contributing to them rather than detracting from them:

The most impressive thing about these blogs (and the academic careers that generate them), is that there is no waste – what starts as a blog, ends as an academic output, and an output with a ready-made audience, eager to cite it. For myself the point is that these scholars don’t waste text, and neither do I. If I give a talk, I turn it into a blog. Not everything is blogged, but the vast majority of the public presentations I make as part of my job, will be.  And while many of these texts will never contribute to an academic article, about half of them do. As a result blogging has become part of my own contribution to what I think of as an academic public sphere. It becomes a way of thinking in public and revising ones work, to make it better, in public. And knowing that there is an audience (whatever its size), changes how one does it – forcing you to think a little harder about the reader, and to think a little harder about the standards of record keeping and attribution that underpin your research.

In fact, this article was cannibalized from one of Hitchcock’s blog posts (on his blog called “Historyonics”) that summarized a message from a talk he gave with the provocative title “Doing it in public: Impact, blogging, social media and the academy” [Link].

The message in these articles resonates with me. Blogging is a labor of love, and this is one of the main reasons to blog. Maintaining a blog is a lot of work, and that isn’t possible without passion. I definitely agree that blogging  isn’t wasted time, but to be honest, it took me awhile to be more efficient with blogging.

I wrote about academic blogging in an article about blogging in the IFORS newsletter that summarizes my thoughts on academic blogging. Here were my final thoughts in that article, where my passion for academic OR blogging hopefully shines through.

Blogging has been a very rewarding journey. While our fame (notoriety?) has passed—ABC News named Bloggers the 2004 People of the Year—blogging is still relevant and important. Blogs continue to be relevant despite being somewhat displaced by the massive rise of microblogging. Blogging provides content that cannot be conveyed in a 140-character tweet or short FaceBook post. Certainly YouTube videos, podcasts, and slidecasts also provide content that rival those in a blog post. However, it is simple to embed youtube videos in a blog post while the reverse is not. Blogs continue to be the best medium for a non-journalist to convey information in different formats accessible in the same place. I have been on several scientific blogging and social networking panels, and they have all confirmed the importance of blogs over other social networking tools.


People stumble across OR blogs for many reasons, and often they stick around. Reaching out to these readers is a tremendous opportunity to improve scientific literacy in the general public. I am often disheartened by the state of scientific literacy in the US, where a recent op-ed in the New York Times argued for universities to abolish the algebra requirement for incoming students and where politicians often cite federal grants for conducting basic scientific research as a symptom of government waste. We need to continue to make operations research known to those who can benefit from the use of advanced analytics for making better decisions. OR blogging is important for making the case to increase competence in mathematics, as it is important for letting people know about OR.

HT Arthur Charpentier (@freakonometrics).


2 responses to “academic blogs: a labor of love

  • Daniel Sandars

    Should I be worried if both a researcher and one apt to view each day as another day in the office? Had I better go looking for passion and obsession?

  • Laura McLay

    Just to be clear:
    I certainly acknowledge that there are many ways to exhibit passion. And good researcher should have attributes other than passion, too.

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