Month: August 2014

Blogging as a Scholarly Activity: Cutting a New Path for Academic Recognition

I have thought about blogging ever since I ventured into the virtual world of social media.  I’ve been Tweeting since January 2009 and have found Twitter to be a very useful format for (1) getting the word out about things that interest me, whether I’ve produced them or not (always with proper credit and attribution), and (2) for finding useful nuggets of information that I can ingest and utilize in my own work or simply share with like-minded folks (as before, appropriately attributed).

Engaging on Twitter has been a very rewarding use of my time, and I believe, constitutes a scholarly activity in that it has helped me to disseminate my academic outputs much more widely that I could have done using traditional academic channels (not everything I produce lends itself to a scholarly publication in a peer reviewed journal). Moreover, Twitter has fed my mind and leveraged my innovative spirit, and connected me with tons of people (through followers and their followers, in turn) that would normally have been out of my reach through traditional academic channels.  The most recent stats for My week on twitter: 6 New Followers, 3 Mentions, 2.11K Mention Reach, 8 Retweets, and 621 Retweet Reach. Not hugely prolific by social media standards, but given my 884 Twitter followers, I am fairly confident that this amounts to many more people than would have access to or will have read any of my peer reviewed publications… just sayin’.

In the academic world, my foray into Twitter and blogging has pushed me to the ‘cutting edge’ and positioned me rather ahead of the curve amongst my scholarly colleagues.  This is both good news and bad, aka challenging.  Good, for the reasons stated above, and challenging because the onus is on me and my social media savvy colleagues to present a strong case for why this ‘activity’ should be recognized as scholarly, by demonstrating credible indices of our social media impacts.

Others have pondered the value of social media for academia. Academic involvement in blogging is on the rise but not yet considered standard academic practice, as discussed by Achilleas Kostoulas in a recent LSE ISE blog post.  Kostoulas believes that “the openness and equality of blogs is fundamentally more democratic than other forms of scholarly debate”, and he reflects on why we might choose to blog academically, what we should blog about, how much time it realistically takes to engage in blogging, and how to stay out of trouble.

I am cautious to blog meaningfully, within a focused topic, and with a specific readership in mind.  More salient for me in everything I do outside of writing a paper for a peer reviewed publication is to ensure that I collect credible and useful evidence of my impact.  I spend equal (or more) time in the non-peer reviewed dissemination space, developing tools and resources for practice based on my science, and sharing on social media, and have yet to be academically penalized for it (although I do think about the potential academic costs every time my performance is reviewed).  I have growing confidence in my conviction that impact indicators (altmetrics) are among the best metrics of scholarship, and they are giving journal impact factors a run for their money (see here for more on that argument: “The Impact Factor and Its Discontents“).

I feel somewhat blessed in that my academic institution, the University of Toronto, recognizes what they term ‘creative professional activity‘ (aka community engaged scholarship, knowledge translation) as scholarship worthy of consideration for academic promotion.  This practice is evident at other universities (see here for Canada – http://engagedscholarship.ca/) and represents an emerging movement.  The Creative Professional Activity Committee for the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, which I now chair, has a goal of promoting the U of T model and encouraging other universities to evolve with the times. I plan to share this model when I visit Australian universities in the Fall.

The challenge brought about by social media in academia, and indeed, the challenge of science and academia in the present day, is to demonstrate how we impact and engage a variety of knowledge users with our scholarly outputs.  Impact has to do with showing that people knew what to do with the knowledge you shared, and the task befalling the communicator is to capture that reality in a tangible way.  This needn’t only be reflected in quantitative data as is typically available on GoogleAnalytics.  Compelling narrative about the relevance and utility of research based outputs should be captured from the perspective the knowledge users with whom we are sharing our research findings.

I will return to this topic and share my ‘impact indicator methodology’ in the next year, when I embark on preparations for compiling my own academic dossier for promotion to Full Professor.  In the meantime, here are some useful resources that I often share in my professional development trainings and that you may find useful:

http://engagedscholarship.ca/

http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/toolkit.html

https://becker.wustl.edu/impact/assessment/index.html

Happy Tweeting and Blogging to all!

Invitation to My Journey Down Under

On September 13th 2014 I will land in Sydney Australia, marking the beginning of my journey to bring my experiences in knowledge translation (KT) and implementation science (IS) Down Under!  First stop is the 2nd Biennial Australian Implementation Conference where I have been invited to keynote.  The program for the conference looks fabulous – filled with both research and practice lessons in implementation from Australia and beyond – and I’m really looking forward to participating! I will be running a pre-conference workshop on Tuesday September 16th called Building impact with knowledge translation and implementation: A practical approach to bridging the know-do gap – more information and registration details here: http://www.ausimplementationconference.net.au/workshops2014.php.

I’m looking forward to exploring Sydney and to meeting formally and informally with colleagues who will be congregating in this terrific city for the conference.  I know my host, Dr. Robyn Mildon, will have me busy and having fun!  Lined up already is a meeting with Angela Dee, Project Manager for the Wobbly Hub & Double Spokes Project and good colleague of my buddy Dr. Katherine Boydell  who is doing some fascinating and innovative research in Arts-Based KT.  I’m also planning to connect with Dr. Sue West, Associate Director for the Centre for Community Child Health at The Royal Children’s Hospital and Co-Research Group Leader for Policy, Equity and Translation with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. I’m free to meet with KT and IS folks on the Monday and Friday of that week (Sept 11-15), so get in touch if you’d like to meet! (melanie.barwick@sickkids.ca).

And so, the Raison d’être for this blog is to take you on this journey with me!  I will meet interesting people and learn about KT and implementation in the Australian context, and I’d like to document this adventure in a way that will facilitate participation from my Canadian and Global implementation network.  This forum will allow me to share my learnings, my perceptions, and to connect my network (all of you who are following) with groups in Australia that may be of interest.  And so, I invite you to comment throughout on all my forthcoming posts.  To the extent that my schedule will allow, I would also be happy to make connections with folks here with whom you may already be connected and that could spur an interesting alliance or collaboration (my schedule to be posted shortly).

I will arrive in Perth, Western Australia on September 20th to undertake a Healthway Health Promotion Visiting Scholarship, awarded to Dr. Tamika Heiden of KT Australia and Prof Lisa Wood at the University of Western Australia. This award will have me touring Perth, Broome, and Albany to give workshops, academic and public talks, and informal conversations with a range of people across public health, health, and mental health sectors. This is an important time for KT and IS in Australia, as they are on the cusp of really developing KT in practice settings and are still (I believe) coming to an understanding of KT and how it can be relevant for them in their practice, and how they can build KT into their organizational frameworks.  I will have an opportunity to meet with high level government and university people, and will be able to share our University of Toronto model for Academic Promotion which acknowledges scholarly work in KT and community engaged work – something I know will be rather foreign to Australian universities.

I hope you will join me on this adventure Down Under!