Thursday, January 17, 2013

Academic Blogging as Outreach -- Celebrating 4 Years

This week, I am marking  4 years of writing on this blog with my first post back in January 19, 2009 noting the new Presidential administration and my Letter to the Editor published in The New York Times about teaching my undergrads. My Fragile Networks book, with Dr. Qiang, was then in production and was published that June.

I have tried to keep true to the themes of this blog: Research, Education, Networks and the World and writing posts and receiving feedback has been a terrific journey, I must say.

My fellow bloggers in Operations Research / Management Science, led by Dr. Thaddeus Sim, started a very interesting discussion with his post: Academic blogging: teaching, research or service?  that I kept on coming back to and ruminating about.  (You can find a list of our community of bloggers at the OR Social Network Users Directory).

One might wonder, how can a Professor, with all of the commitments to research and publishing, teaching, and professional service, plus having a personal life and a heavy travel schedule, find time to keep up a blog, which now numbers over 1,000 posts? Also, as Dr. Sim and company noted, how does doing so even count or matter in academia?

Besides being a high energy individual, with a lot of discipline and focus, there are many topics that I am passionate about and I view blogging as outreach. In writing about matters of research, education, and what is happening in the world, whether in one's courses and classrooms to major events, I try to communicate and to inform.

So many schools and colleges have now sadly dropped their emphasis on communications with fewer glossy reports and publications and magazines and even cutbacks on what is posted on websites (with social media being the exception). Plus, the fact that the news media is deemphasizing articles on research and science is well-known, so we need to fill the voids.

I like to celebrate the accomplishments of my students, to recognize great achievements, to highlight research advances, to thank outstanding speakers, to describe travel adventures, to recognize the special communities that we are part of, and, also, to offer advice.  I also write about leadership and acknowledge role models.

Blogging provides a record of impacts of events and milestones.

Whether one's academic institution recognizes blogging (I have yet to report any posts on my Annual Faculty Report but have gotten numerous thank you's even from alums for my postings as well as former administrators and students and readers from around the globe)  when I have helped to further research or practice, to put a smile on someone's face, to make someone think differently, to support students either directly or indirectly and the same goes for others, or even to elicit some positive change (I have some great examples of this), then I know that  it has been worthwhile.

And yes, academic blogging may include all three facets of research, teaching, and service but in sharing our experiences and insights we are also reaching out as a public service.

And, now four years later, President Obama is reelected and my new book will be out soon!