By Trevor Caughlin
Congratulations! You have just published a new academic paper. After many months of writing, analysis, and revision your paper is finally up on the journal’s website. In a publishing landscape that is increasingly crowded with new articles, how can you ensure that your paper will have an impact? This question is particularly tricky for papers with interdisciplinary significance that have been published in disciplinary journals. For example, a primarily ecological paper on forest cover change may have implications for sociology—but will be overlooked by sociologists if published in an ecological journal. A blog post presents an opportunity to magnify the impact of your paper across a broad audience.
A blog post about an academic paper describes the key findings and importance of the paper in a brief, readable format. Unlike journal articles, blog posts can be re-published on multiple websites. The blog post can also be easily shared across social media platforms and accessed freely without any journal subscription or academic affiliation. Recent work has demonstrated a strong positive relationship between social media buzz about a paper and citation rates—in fact, Twitter activity was a stronger predictor of citation rates than journal impact factor. My personal experience monitoring page views of one of my recently published papers is that views on the journal’s website nearly tripled after a blog post was published online. The blog post on my paper also led to follow-up emails from people affiliated with NGOs and the private sector; an audience that may not have found the paper through the journal. The advantages of promoting academic work via blog posts and social media are clear: greater visibility, more potential impact on policy, and increased citations.
Fortunately, if you have already put months of hard work into writing a journal article, writing a blog post is straightforward. The simplest blog format is a three paragraph rehash of your paper that introduces the broad importance of your topic in the first paragraph, describes a bit about the methods in the second paragraph, and reaches a conclusion in the last paragraph. Many authors will already have text that is suitable for this type of blog post in the cover letter that was associated with the article and perhaps in the article abstract (however, it is important to write the blog for a general audience and avoid academic jargon). For examples of this type of blog, check out Landscape attributes determine restoration outcomes in the Ecuadorian Andes by Romaike S. Middendorp or Ants love second-growth forests! by Ricardo Solar.
Writing a blog post that goes beyond summarizing the paper can also be rewarding. A blog post can synthesize results from multiple recent studies (see Natural regeneration for sustainable development by Alvaro Silva Iribarrem for a great example). Another useful idea is a blog post that puts scientific results in a policy context, such as this blog post by Madelon Lohbeck on implications of reforestation research for climate change mitigation. Telling a story about the challenges of field work or where the idea for the paper came from could also make for an interesting blog post. The key to writing any blog is to produce a post that can be quickly read and understood, even by a non-academic audience.
Once you have written the blog post, there are many opportunities for dissemination. Many journals now have a space for blog posts on the journal home page. Another option is through a research network, such as the PARTNERS interdisciplinary research coordination network for people and reforestation in the tropics. On the PARTNERS web page, we provide editorial support for blog posts and also ensure the post is distributed through our Facebook group and Twitter account. The PARTNERS web page also provides a useful repository for blog posts that can be easily searched and accessed in the future.
Good luck and happy writing!
 Peoples, B. K., S. R. Midway, D. Sackett, A. Lynch, and P. B. Cooney. 2016. Twitter Predicts Citation Rates of Ecological Research. PLOS ONE 11:e0166570.