Spartan Ideas Celebrates MSU’s Cyber-Conversations
Ask a researcher if he or she likes to write for a lay audience and the answer will likely be no. While academic writing in the interest of publishing research is expected, boiling down that information for the public is a different story. But that story is changing.
“Researchers today need to garner more support for the work they’re doing,” said Stephen Hsu, Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies. “The general public, donors and alumni want to understand university research and the outcomes.”
This was the impetus for Spartan Ideas, an aggregation blog pulling together online conversations written by researchers, students and staff at MSU. The brainchild of Hsu, the infrastructure for the blog was set up two years ago and the response by bloggers and readers alike continues to increase.
Curated by the MSU Libraries, authors blog on their respective sites giving them the academic freedom to write on various topics and share their personal thoughts. Independent authoring and library curation makes Spartan Ideas unique among other university blogs and it also serves as a bibliographic record of research activity at MSU.
“Certainly not every post on Spartan Ideas is directly related to research,” said Hsu. “But opinions from subject matter experts showcase the cognitive capacity we have here at Michigan State, solidifying our research reputation. Sharing this information online also contributes to the public sphere of intellectual discourse.”
And researchers are gaining additional benefits by authoring for the web. “Posting an overview of your research online allows others to comment and give feedback. It also opens the door for collaboration,” said Hsu. “Online communication is tremendously valuable for both faculty and student researchers.”
“For me, blogging is a nice way to reach a broader audience that’s interested in science and its implications, but who don’t want all the technical details of journal papers,” commented Richard Lenski, Hannah Distinguished Professor, Plant Soil and Microbial Sciences. “My blog also lets me discuss certain aspects about the life of a scientist other than the science itself. And with social media, especially Twitter, I get a sense of the various career concerns of younger scientists, and hear about other areas of science that I don’t follow as closely as my own specialization.”
Some faculty bloggers for Spartan Ideas have now expanded their writing to op-ed pieces for media outlets such as The Conversation, further developing their research reputation and credibility.
“Blogging has helped me learn to communicate in a more accessible manner, and provided me the opportunity to engage with the broader public in a unique way,” said Katy Meyers Emery, PhD candidate, Anthropology.
“I’m proud to be a part of the Spartan Ideas network,” stated Emery. “Not only does it demonstrate the importance of blogging as a form of communication, but it celebrates the writing and work of Spartans from a wide range of academic fields.”
The site now boasts over 2,000 posts from more than 100 authors and continues to attract new readers with 85% of all visitors being new.
“We’re extremely pleased with the growth and development of Spartan Ideas,” said Steven Sowards of the MSU Libraries. “Spartan Ideas offers tremendous value–readers on- and off-campus should take advantage of a chance to learn and enjoy at the same time.”
To learn more about blogging or have your blog posts added to Spartan Ideas, contact the site curators at the MSU Libraries. To author for The Conversation, please contact Communications and Brand Strategy directly.
– Melanie Kaufman, Office for Research Facilitation and Dissemination