Why Academics Go Online

When Jonathan Adler, JD, began blogging in the early 1990s, he was part maverick, part pioneer.

He embraced the central importance of scholarly publishing for young academics. But in the emerging realm of blogging, he saw an intriguing and distinctly different opportunity: He could reach a broad audience, share research, test ideas and receive near-instant feedback.

Fast-forward 20 years. Blogs are ubiquitous, and Adler, the Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law, is the kind of academic he envisioned years ago—a prolific scholar with an influential online presence. He blogs for the libertarian-leaning Volokh Conspiracy on, and his posts, especially those on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, have been cited in academic journals, books and even Congressional testimony.

"Blogging is a great bridge between academia and the public at large," he says.

Earlier this year, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof bemoaned the dearth of scholars in public debate in an op-ed titled "Professors, We Need You!" In it, he urged scholars to take advantage of blogging and social media to help shape public discourse.

Some scholars took umbrage at Kristof's sweeping generalizations—particularly academics already engaged in the public sphere.

Deepak Sarma, a professor of South Asian religions and philosophy who blogs for The Huffington Post, has penned pieces on topics such as Hindu conversion that have provoked hundreds of comments.

Blogs "are a wonderful wayto challenge people to think about their basic beliefs and presuppositions," Sarma says.

And some write to provide objective data in an online world rife with misinformation. Amy Przeworski, PhD, an assistant professor of psychological sciences, posts articles on Psychology Today's website about disorders such as anxiety and depression. "Research can have long-lasting effects on large groups of people," she says, "but it is useless unless it is disseminated to the public in a meaningful way." —Emily Mayock


What's the benefit of blogging?

Faculty members offer their ideas.

"I actually think blogging helps my scholarship. First, it's an opportunity to try out ideas related to the issues upon which I work. Second, there are many issues that I follow as potential areas of study, and blogging on those issues helps keep me engaged on those issues.Third, one of the best ways to help with my writing is to write—even when it's on something else."

Jonathan Adler, JD, the Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law
visit Adler's blog

"Over the past 20 years, virtually all of my writing has been in the form of f
ormal research reports. I wanted to start complementing my research reports with writing that was more personally expressive and less formal."

Julie Exline, PhD, Armington Professor of Psychological Sciences
visit Exline's blog

"Blogs are a way of bringing what we do in the field to the public and digesting all of the lingo so folks from every walk of life can understand the results of research."

Amy Przeworski, PhD, assistant professor of psychological sciences
visit Przeworski's blog

"My inspiration was, and continues to be, a desire to initiate and engage in important dialogues with intelligent partners."

Deepak Sarma, PhD, professor of South Asian religions and philosophy
visit Sarma's blog

"Some academicscall me a journalist and think I have degraded myself by [blogging]. We have a lot of constituents to reach, and we have to reach them in different ways.People don't buy books the way they used to, and not everyone can take my classes. I can reach a lot of people if I write online."

Scott Shane, PhD, the A. Malachi Mixon III Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies
visit Shane's blog and his blog

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