Tag: research impact

Research impact

Yesterday’s Health and Care Research Wales conference, held at the SWALEC stadium in Cardiff (more about that later), was all about closing the gaps between research, policy and practice.

There were some excellent keynote speakers. Jenny Kitzinger spoke of her research involving families of people who are minimally conscious, sharing her experiences of working with policymakers to influence at a national level. Jenny argued that impact is helped when research (1) has strong foundations, (2) is collaborative, and (3) is communicated through diverse outputs. ‘Diverse outputs’ means doing a whole lot more than simply writing journal articles (particularly those which end up behind publisher paywalls). For a direct example of how Jenny’s work influences, follow this link for a Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology POSTnote which cites a number of her and her collaborators’ publications.

André Tomlin, aka The Mental Elf, drew on his work with the National Elf Service to make the case for getting evidence into practice. This means communicating research findings in ways which are both understandable and accessible to practitioners. This, of course, is exactly what the Mental Elf Service does, using blog posts and other social media to share key research messages.

Steve Jones is a biologist known to many for his efforts to improve the public understanding of science. In his afternoon address he gave a fascinating account of working with government and the BBC. I liked his upbeat take on the past and present strength of UK science, but also noted his examples of scientific advice being flatly ignored or misused.

The day’s final keynote speaker was Malcolm Mason, whose talk emphasised the time it can take to generate research findings which have the potential to change care and treatment. Malcolm is an oncologist, specialising in prostate cancer, and his message for researchers wanting to make a difference is that they must ask questions which are important and not only interesting.

Worth mentioning, too, are yesterday’s workshops. Three were on offer, from which delegates had the chance to participate in two. As I have some experience in public involvement in research I elected to join the ‘impact on practice’ and ‘impact on policy’ options.

I enjoyed the day, and along the way also appreciated the chance to catch up with colleagues. Overwhelmingly, though, I am left thinking that the work of getting research into policy, services and everyday practice is something which needs to be planned for, and resourced. I also think most researchers (myself included) have some learning to do on this front, and perhaps need to develop some new skills and to make some new friends. In the past I’ve come across the Economic and Social Research Council’s impact toolkit, and yesterday was alerted to the existence of a study titled, A systematic review of barriers to, and facilitators of, the use of evidence by policymakers. Worth a read, perhaps.


I’ve now been to the SWALEC stadium five or six times for meetings, conferences and the like. I’ve never been there, though, to watch sport: the stadium being the home of Glamorgan Cricket. Perhaps I should rectify this at some point, as the idea of watching a match which might last days, involve beer (for spectators, if not players) and then end in a draw rather appeals.




Academics and social media

Time this evening to give a quick plug to Deborah Lupton’s Survey on academics’ use of social media. I spotted the online questionnaire when it first appeared, and was pleased to take part. Now, some months later, Deborah has published her results. Here’s the abstract from the main report, reproduced in its entirety:

This report outlines findings from an international online survey of 711 academics about their use of social media as part of their work conducted in January 2014. The survey sought to identify the tools that the respondents used, those they found most useful and the benefits and the drawbacks of using social media as a university faculty member or postgraduate student. The results offer insights into the sophisticated and strategic ways in which some academics are using social media and the many benefits they have experienced for their academic work. These benefits included connecting and establishing networks not only with other academics but also people or groups outside universities, promoting openness and sharing of information, publicising and development of research and giving and receiving support. While the majority of the respondents were very positive about using social media, they also expressed a range of concerns. These included issues of privacy and the blurring of boundaries between personal and professional use, the risk of jeopardising their career through injudicious use of social media, lack of credibility, the quality of the content they posted, time pressures, social media use becoming an obligation, becoming a target of attack, too much self-promotion by others, possible plagiarism of their ideas and the commercialisation of content and copyright issues. The report ends by contextualising the findings within the broader social and political environment and outlining areas for future research.

The report makes for an interesting read. For those looking for a condensed-but-longer-than-an-abstract version, follow this link for Prof Lupton’s accompanying piece for The Conversation website.

Research and mental health nursing

Over on the Mental Health Nurse Academics UK blog, the group’s chair Dr Michael Coffey writes:

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) looms large for many of us. This is part of the regular round of judging of peer-reviewed research publications on which the UK government bases its decisions on distribution of institutional research funding. Decisions within Higher Education Institutions are being made around now on who is considered returnable and then whether it is strategically advantageous to submit these researchers in the exercise. For individual research careers these decisions weigh heavy. For the profession of mental health nursing there may be wider implications. Previous research assessment exercises have seen more and more evidence of mental health nurses being returned. This has undoubtedly led to an improved profile within individual universities and recognition of the contribution of research to improving the experience of people using mental health services.  There remain significant opportunities for mental health nurse researchers to contribute and bring to bear a professional view on what needs researching and how this should be conducted. We will have to wait until 2014 for an idea of what the landscape will look like in relation to mental health nursing. One thing for sure is that we need a highly engaged mental health nurse academic workforce to continue to provide high quality education and research. By doing this we can make a meaningful contribution to the development of mental health care both here in the UK and beyond.

Nursing certainly did do well in the UK’s last Research Assessment Exercise, the precursor to the REF to which Michael refers in his post. Results for all higher education institutions submitting to Unit of Assessment (UoA) 11 (Nursing and Midwifery) in RAE 2008 can be found here. In his subject overview report for UoA11, Professor Hugh McKenna of Ulster University ended with this:

In conclusion, the sub-panel members were very impressed with most of the submissions they reviewed and with the pervasive pattern of world-leading and internationally excellent research. There are many models of good practice from which developing research groupings can learn in terms of research activities, outputs, environment and esteem. It is clear that investment by Governments, funding bodies and universities has increased research capacity and developed research leaders capable of undertaking nursing and midwifery research that is internationally excellent and world leading. These funding streams need to be sustained and enhanced if the upward trajectory and momentum are to continue and if the quality differentials between the strongest and weakest departments are to be addressed.

And, when the results from the last RAE were published in December 2008, The Guardian ran an article titled Nursing research takes its place on world stage. Here it said:

Nursing, for many years medicine’s poor relation, has come of age in the 2008 research assessment exercise (RAE). Academics in the field can justifiably claim to be world-leading in terms of research. Nursing and midwifery was among the subjects with the most highly rated research in the results published today.

Heady stuff indeed, and testimony to years of hard work, strategy, and capacity-building investment. All this does, though, seem an awful long time ago. As Michael reminds us in his MHNAUK post, attention has long since turned to preparations and prospects for REF 2014.

I have written about nursing and the Research Excellence Framework 2014 on this site before, drawing attention to the workload facing members of UoA A3 (Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy) and to the challenges of demonstrating and assessing ‘impact’. So, as we hurtle towards the deadline for REF submission, in what shape does UK mental health nursing research find itself?

Readers of this blog will know that this is a question that MHNAUK is also asking, and is seeking an answer to in organised fashion. Professor Len Bowers led a discussion on this at the MHNAUK meeting held in Cardiff last March. When the group reconvened in Liverpool in June, Dr Fiona Nolan asked members for items to include in her planned survey of research activity and capacity.

Whilst we await findings from Fiona’s project in the first instance, my personal view is that there is much to celebrate in mental health nursing research but also room for development. A small number of universities are home to strong and established research groups. Leaders of these have built national and international collaborations across disciplinary and institutional boundaries. They have laboured to secure funding in open competition and to complete and publish studies with real implications for policy, services, education and practice. This is excellent progress, and I think we now need more of this type of activity across more universities. This means people (and I include myself here) extending their ambition, and perhaps being a little bolder. As an example, early next year the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme invites a first round of applications for funding. How excellent it would be for mental health nurses in the UK to be leading, and collaborating on, high-quality bids submitted there.

My more general reading of the field is that, in many universities, mental health nurse researchers are thinly spread. I’ll bet that in most of the sixty-plus universities represented at MHNAUK the number of people predominantly involved in teaching far outstrips the number predominantly engaged in research. Teaching is important – really important – but the lone researcher in a team of teachers is in a tough place indeed. As I cast an eye around the departments I am most familiar with I also wonder where the younger mental health nurse researchers are. How many mental health nurses in their 20s are studying for PhDs? If the answer is ‘not many’, then what should we collectively be doing to make research a viable, and attractive, career proposition for nurses at the start of their careers? How might we nurture a future generation of mental health nursing clinical academics?

Anyway: all is speculation until we have some evidence. The MHNAUK survey, I anticipate, will paint a more rounded and complete picture of the true state of research activity and capacity than will the Research Excellence Framework. The REF, being what it is, is subject to all sorts of inter- and intra-institutional politicking and will produce only a partial view of what’s really going on.

Increasing the visibility of research

Where publishers’ copyright rules permit, since last year I have been uploading green open access versions of peer reviewed research papers I have written or co-written to ORCA, Cardiff University’s digital repository. I have then been adding hyperlinks to these papers to research-related posts on this blog. To round this all off I’ve been using Twitter to draw attention to what I’ve been up to.

Having a WordPress blog means that I get to see which hyperlinks anonymous readers are following, and I know that some onward clicks are taking people to my open access articles. At the end of last week I asked colleagues managing ORCA if any tools existed to help me find out which of my papers have been downloaded, and when.

What I now have is access to an application allowing me to interrogate ORCA in all sorts of ways. So I know, for example, that full-text papers I have authored and saved to the repository have been downloaded 360 times between January 1st 2005 (the earliest date I can select) and today, July 3rd 2013. Two hundred and eighty eight of these downloads have taken place since November 24th 2012, this being the date I created this blog and first posted.

Here is a summary of my ORCA ‘eprints’ and the number of times each has been downloaded up to today:

Eprint Fulltext Downloads
Hannigan, Ben and Allen, Davina Ann 2013. Complex caring trajectories in community mental health: contingencies, divisions of labor and care coordination. Community Mental Health Journal 10.1007/s10597-011-9467-9
Hannigan, Ben and Coffey, Michael 2011. Where the wicked problems are: the case of mental health. Health Policy 101 (3) , pp. 220-227. 10.1016/j.healthpol.2010.11.002
Coffey, Michael and Hannigan, Ben 2013. New roles for nurses as approved mental health professionals in England and Wales: A discussion paper. International Journal of Nursing Studies 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2013.02.014
Hannigan, Ben and Allen, Davina Ann 2011. Giving a fig about roles: Policy, context and work in community mental health care. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 18 (1) , pp. 1-8. 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2010.01631.x
Hannigan, Ben 2013. Connections and consequences in complex systems: insights from a case study of the emergence and local impact of crisis resolution and home treatment services. Social Science & Medicine 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.12.044
Hannigan, Ben and Allen, Davina Ann 2006. Complexity and Change in the United Kingdom’s System of Mental Health Care. Social Theory & Health 4 (3) , pp. 244-263. 10.1057/palgrave.sth.8700073
Hannigan, Ben and Allen, Davina Ann 2003. A tale of two studies: research governance issues arising from two ethnographic investigations into the organisation of health and social care. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 40 (7) , pp. 685-695. 10.1016/S0020-7489(02)00111-6

All are papers I have specifically blogged about, and have subsequently flagged up on my Enduring posts page. I am therefore going to tentatively conclude that the approach I have taken to increase the visibility of my research is having an effect.

What I do not know is who has been downloading (and hopefully reading!) these articles, and for what purposes. I would like to think it has been a mixture of researchers, practitioners, managers, policymakers and service users. I also hope they have found what they have read to have been both interesting and useful.

Using research

I very much hope that UK readers of this blog have enjoyed this year’s summer (which, at least, coincided with the early May bank holiday weekend). Right now we’ve been plunged back into autumn, or so it feels here in South Wales. Wind and rain are everywhere.

Here’s a wordcloud used during Friday morning’s teaching with students of mental health nursing, during which I shared something about COCAPP and other (past and present) research projects involving people working in the Cardiff School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies. One of the things I did was to draw students’ attention to my paper on complex trajectories in community mental health, as previously blogged about here. Unrelatedly, towards the end of Friday I also caught sight of some newly delivered reviewers’ feedback on a grant proposal on which I am a co-applicant. One of the points the reviewers made was to encourage us, as a research team, to plan to do more to get future findings into services and practice.

The first of these otherwise unconnected events was a modest attempt to close the gap between research and education. The second was a reminder of the importance of closing the gap between research and the world of health and social care. So with both experiences in mind this post is about getting research out of the hands of academics and into the hands of others who might use it: practitioners and students, service managers, policymakers, users, carers. Coming not long after my recent post on the assessment of outputs in the Research Excellence Framework, this post might also be thought of as an excursion into ‘impact’.

Within single university departments it ought to be reasonably straightforward to bring research and teaching closer together. This said, I can still clearly remember co-presenting with Cardiff colleagues at a nursing research conference in London in the late 1990s only to be told, by a student who had travelled from our own school, that she had had no previous idea who we were or that the research projects we had discussed were ongoing. That was a salutary moment, and since then I have taken opportunities to directly bring research (mine, my colleagues’, other people’s) into the modules I have led and contributed to. And of course, I am hardly alone in doing this kind of thing. But across the whole higher education sector demarcations are growing between ‘teachers’ and ‘researchers’, with universities routinely differentiating between staff on the basis of their expected roles. If researchers become less involved in teaching then the risk is run that naturally occurring opportunities for projects to be brought into the classroom, by those who are running them, will dwindle.

But if integrating research and teaching can be challenging then getting research findings out of universities’ doors for the benefit of all is harder still. In the health and social care fields the publication of findings in peer reviewed journals comes with no guarantee that these will be read, or used to inform anything which happens outside of academia. In nursing (and I imagine in many other practitioner disciplines too) this has often been seen as part of the ‘theory/practice gap’ problem. Nurses have spent a long time agonising over this, and typing some suitable search terms into Google Scholar produces some 200,000 documents (that’s the slightly obscured number circled in red in this screenshot) evidently devoted to its examination:

Nurses are not alone in having concerns of this type. The Cooksey review of UK health research funding talked about tackling the ‘translation gap’ through getting ‘ideas from basic and clinical research into the development of new products and approaches to treatment of disease and illness‘, and at the same time ‘implementing those new products and approaches into clinical practice‘. Universities are increasingly urged to do better with their ‘knowledge exchange’ activities. And, as we know, the Research Excellence Framework 2014 has introduced the idea of assessing ‘impact’.

‘Impact’ in the REF2014 Assessment framework and guidance on submissions document is defined ‘as an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia‘. It’s about research being ‘felt’ beyond universities, and assessing this. The assessed bit is important in the formal REF exercise because impact (presented using case studies, and counting for 20% of the overall quality profile to be awarded to each individual submission) will be graded using this scale:

Four star Outstanding impacts in terms of their reach and significance.
Three star Very considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance
Two star Considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance
One star Recognised but modest impacts in terms of their reach and significance
Unclassified The impact is of little or no reach and significance; or the impact was not eligible; or the impact was not underpinned by excellent research produced by the submitted unit.

As in the case of the assessment of outputs I am struck by the fine judgements that will be required by the REF’s experts. I suggest that one person’s time-pressed ‘very considerable’ may well turn out to be another’s ‘considerable’, or even ‘modest’.

Issues of reliability aside, the inclusion of ‘impact’ in REF2014 has got people to think, again, about how to close some of the gaps I have referred to above. For researchers in health and social care there has been new work to do to demonstrate how findings have been felt in policymaking, in services and in the provision of care and treatment. Who would object to the idea that research for nursing practice should have benefits beyond academia? But as many of the documents I identified when searching for papers on the theory/practice gap (along with newer materials on ‘knowledge exchange’) will no doubt confirm, demonstrably getting research into policy, organisations and practice can be fiendishly hard.

There are many reasons why this is so. Not all research findings have immediate and direct applications to everyday health and social care. Even when findings do have clear and obvious application, university-based researchers may not be best-placed to do the necessary ‘mobilisation’ (to use the currently fashionable phrase), including in relation to knowledge which they themselves have created. And by the time peer reviewed findings have reached the public domain, policy and services in fickle, fast-moving, environments may have moved on. In cases where we think research has made a difference there is also the small matter, in the context of the REF, of marshalling the evidence necessary to demonstrate this to the satisfaction of an expert panel. In any event research is often incremental, with knowledge growing cumulatively as new insights are added over time. Given this we should, perhaps, have rather modest expectations of the likely influence of single papers or projects.

Beyond this it is always good to hear of new ways in which wider attention might be drawn to research and its benefits, and a rich resource for people with interests in this area is the multi-author blog and associated materials on the impact of the social sciences run by the LSE. This is a suitably interdisciplinary initiative, which can be followed on Twitter at @LSEImpactBlog. I recommend it (and not just to social scientists), and as a starting point its Maximising the impacts of your research document. This sets out to provide ‘a large menu of sound and evidence-based advice and guidance on how to ensure that your work achieves its maximum visibility and influence with both academic and external audiences‘, and as such has lots of useful observations and suggestions.

Football and mental health

A highlight of last year’s Network for Psychiatric Nursing Research conference in Oxford was Alan Pringle‘s talk on football and mental health. Alan works at Nottingham University, and here’s what his web page has to say:

Alan has worked in the area of using football as a vehicle for mental health promotion and interventions in a number of ways in recent years.

His PhD looked at the impact that actively supporting a club (in this case Mansfield Town FC) could have on the mental health of supporters. He was involved in the development of the “It’s a Goal!” programme. This programme places staff in football stadiums to work primarily with young men in mental health promotion and mental health intervention work. “It’s a Goal!” has run in 16 different professional clubs from large premiership clubs like Manchester United and Stoke City to lower division clubs like Macclesfield Town and Plymouth Argyle.

Alan was involved in developing the Positive Goals football league with Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust. This league for service users involves teams from all over the county coming together to play matches on a monthly basis and each year comprises of between 10 and 12 teams.

Alan is a member of the Football and Mental Health Group for Time-to-Change the national anti-stigma organisation.

Alan’s NPNR talk was excellent, and his research and wider work has clearly made a real difference. If you navigate to his webpage you’ll find references to publications he’s written, too. There’s also the It’s a Goal website, which is full of information.

This leads me nicely to last Tuesday at the Cardiff City Stadium, where along with thousands of others I witnessed the moment of Cardiff City‘s promotion to the top flight of football, securing a place in the Premier League for the coming season. A big deal all round. Here’s a photo, taken just after the game’s end.

Research, open access and academic blogging [2]

In last month’s Research, open access and academic blogging post I neglected to ask the obvious question: why are the article processing charges (APCs) levied by some open access journals so high? In that post I gave the example of BMC Health Services Research, which (unless a waiver is applied for and granted) demands the sum of £1,290 before each accepted paper progresses to online publication. What, exactly, is all that money for? It’s certainly not to pay peer reviewers for their time or expertise, because if it was I would have received some additional earnings from BMC by now. Does it really cost so much to iron out the typos, format to house style and upload an article to the journal’s servers?

I pointed out in my original piece that it is neither reasonable nor sustainable to systematically expect individual academics to pay APCs. This being the case, universities and grant awarding bodies are going to have to stump up. But via this post on the Sussex (and former Cardiff) physicist Peter Coles’s In the Dark blog I was alerted to this cautionary note from the Royal Historical Society on the unintended consequences of this arrangement. For the interested reader there’s also this RHS President’s letter on the same. The argument goes like this: if universities are going to be paying the APCs associated with individual open access articles then academic freedom will be eroded, as the final decisions on which publications are to be financially supported and which are not will be made by budget-holding managers.

The problem, then, is not with open access per se but with the extortionate costs currently associated with some versions of it. These need to come down, and quickly.

Research, open access and academic blogging

Martin Webber, social work academic at the University of York, is inviting discussion on why researchers should blog. Martin will be drawing on what people say at a seminar he’s giving early next month as part of a York Social Research in the Digital Age series.

So, why indeed? Here are some personal reflections, on blogging and also more generally on the process of writing in an internet-connected world. These I’m basing on my (very) preliminary experiences on this site, some thinking done over the last couple of days, and an awareness of how academic practice is changing.

Word cloud 28.01.13First, researchers might want to blog because this is a very direct, free-to-access, way of communicating. This is especially important in disciplines in which most research papers are published in journals which sit behind paywalls. In applied areas like my own (mental health nursing, systems and services), a blog can be one way of connecting with important audiences (practitioners, policymakers, managers, service users) likely to lack the necessary subscriptions

This does not mean that academic blogging is therefore redundant in disciplines where all or most research outputs are publicly available, and for free. To say why this is so, I probably need to say something about open access. Here in the UK a big shift is taking place in favour of publishing in journals which are both peer reviewed and free to the reader. Check out, for example, the 246 titles currently offered online by BioMed Central. Plenty of longer-established publishers are now also offering open access options to authors submitting to their titles. Increasingly this means that, within single issues of journals, open access content sits side-by-side with subscription or one-off payment content.

A major driver behind these developments is the Finch Report, which appeared last year. This recommended open access as the preferred publishing model for the future, particularly in the case of papers reporting research supported by public funds. Making further progress along the open access route, however, means finding new ways of covering the costs. In the traditional model authors pay nothing to see their papers in print, the costs of publishing being recouped via institutional (or individual) subscriptions or from payments made by readers of single articles. Publishers like BioMed Central do things differently, requiring authors (unless they secure waivers) to pay an ‘article processing [or publishing] charge’ (APC) for each peer reviewed and accepted paper. APCs can be hefty. For example, the current submission checklist for the journal BMC Health Services Research indicates that it usually levies an APC of £1,290 on each accepted paper. The Times Higher Education reports that in the majority of open access papers published in the new social sciences and humanities journal Sage Open, the APC has been paid by individual authors. I’m not sure that’s either fair or sustainable. In the future, financial support for what Finch and others have called ‘gold [APC] open access’ will surely have to be provided by funders and universities (presumably using money currently being used elsewhere). Government and charitable funding bodies will require applicants to include in their bids the costs of open access publication, and universities will sign up as members of organisations such as BioMed Central with the aim of waiving or reducing the costs associated with individual article processing.

There are other ways of making available, freely and publicly, the full text of published research outputs. Publishers’ policies in this area differ, but under the terms of their copyright agreements many allow versions of accepted papers to be uploaded to institutional repositories for access, at no cost, by interested readers. The best deals allow authors to deposit post-peer review versions of papers as soon as they have been accepted for publication. Other deals allow the same, but after an elapsing of time to make sure that readers wanting immediate access have to obtain paid-for versions. The text in these author-own manuscripts is the same as that appearing in journals’ versions, but the papers lack the ‘added value’ of volume and issue details, layout and formatting as per journal house style, and so forth. This ‘green open access’ model is one I have been making use of in this blog, via links to post-peer review versions of papers saved in the Cardiff University ORCA repository. Check out my Enduring posts page, which has examples of posts and linked papers on wicked problems, work and roles in mental health systems, and research ethics and governance.

So if the gathering pace of the open access movement means that research papers will be more likely to be publicly and freely available via ‘gold’ and ‘green’ routes in the future, does this reduce the need for research blogs? Not at all, in my view. Blogs can be vehicles for making clear the connections between multiple papers and projects, giving researchers opportunities to write in-the-round overviews of cumulative bodies of work. They can also help contextualize research, and unpack the detail of full-text papers irrespective of whether these are open access or paid-for. In this way blogs can perhaps help translate ideas, promote uptake and increase the use of findings. This, I think, is part of the task researchers now face to maximise what the Research Excellence Framework (REF) refers to as ‘impact’. As an aside, I am reminded in this context of the excellent material on using social media to promote research available at the LSE’s Impact and the Social Sciences blog. If anyone working in the health and social care fields has examples of blogs, tweets and the like being successfully used to promote impact outside of academia, I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like to hear more.

Blogs are also interactive, allowing fast-moving, two-way, communication between writers and readers via the use of the ‘comments’ function. This is very different from traditional academic publishing, which can be distinctly one-way. This said, there are some journals (like the BMJ) which directly encourage readers’ online responses to published papers, and which host journal content and supplementary material (blogs included) at single sites. Further, whilst publishers will often accept study protocols in their journals they are less keen on progress reports. The immediacy of blogging offers an option here. For instance, Martin Webber on his site has some excellent examples of using his blog to keep interested parties aware of his ongoing projects.

To sum up what has turned into a lengthier-than-expected post. Martin Webber asks why researchers should blog. Based on my (admittedly brief) excursion into the genre, my response is that a more appropriate question might actually be, ‘Why are researchers not blogging as a matter of course?’ I have also taken this opportunity to think, in a more general way, about blogging in the context of changing academic practice. Blogs are a way of sharing research ideas, progress and findings, and can be used to wrap around and support full-text open access content. They have the potential to promote engagement between research producers, and research consumers. They allow connections to be made, and they encourage interaction. What’s not to like?