To read or not to read…

By Gabriele Bammer

This is the second annual “state of the blog” review.

Gabriele Bammer (biography)

Why are you reading this? That sounds like an aggressive question, but it’s not meant to be. It’s a prelude to asking: is the blog serving a useful purpose for you? If so, what is it doing right? If not, what could it do better?

The blog was established to provide easier access to concepts and methods for dealing with complex problems in any field (environment, public health, welfare, education, security and more) and to connect a diverse and fragmented community – primarily of researchers.

November 2017 marked the blog’s second anniversary and this 169th blog post reviews how we are tracking, as well as asking for your input.

We have now had:

  • 189 contributors from 27 countries (that’s 80 new contributors from 7 new countries since 2016).
  • more than 104,000 views from people spread across 169 of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations (up from 40,000+ views and 156 countries in 2016).

For the numbers fiends, more detailed statistical analyses are published every three months.

Publishing frequency: In April we moved from publishing twice each week to publishing once each week (although occasionally there are two posts). We were responding to suggestions that readers were feeling overwhelmed and certainly, with the reduction of posts, the views per post have increased, if home page views are also taken into account.

Comments: Comments on blog posts have also increased substantially this year, up from a median of 2 in 2016 to 7 in 2017. Twenty-six percent of posts published in 2016 had no comments, down to 6% in 2017.

Re-advertising: We’ve also started re-advertising previously published blog posts and judging by the number of views, readers have appreciated being reminded of blog posts they may have missed. Indeed because of the nature of the blog, most posts will date quite slowly and will have something to offer for several years.

Categories of blog posts: Most blog posts are about theory, concepts, methods or processes for knowledge synthesis, dealing with unknowns or using research to support policy and practice change. The number of blog posts in each category is as follows:

The second biggest grouping of blog posts concerns embedding effective ways of dealing with complex problems into the academic mainstream in both research and education. Two key, inter-related, barriers are: a) fragmentation of effort and b) lack of an agreed name for who we are and what we do. Twenty-three blog posts have addressed these issues of institutionalisation, including four on establishing a “college of peers.”

The blog also covers case studies of how concepts and methods have been deployed or institutionalization has occurred (8 blog posts) and educational issues especially for inter- and trans-disciplinarity (8 blog posts).

Topics: Ten of the most common topics are: Modelling (45), Collaboration (43), Stakeholders (41), Interdisciplinarity (37), Research implementation (32), Transdisciplinarity (31), Communication (29), Change (27), Co-creation (25), and Unknowns (20).

Most popular: The three most popular blog posts, each with more than 2,000 views are:

Partners: We are interested in continuing to grow mutually beneficial partnerships with projects, journals and conferences. This year we continued our partnerships with the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), the journal Evidence and Policy, the authors of the book Transdisciplinary Research and Practice for Sustainability Outcomes and researchers in the New Zealand Our Land and Water National Science Challenge project “The Collaboration Lab.”

We also formed new partnerships with the journal GAIA (see blog posts by Claude Garcia and colleagues and by Uwe Scheidewind and Karoline Augenstein) and the International Transdisciplinarity Conference 2017 (see the blog posts  by Danilo Streck and Rick Szostak), with more to come in 2018.

Best wishes for 2018: We hope the blog will form part of your holiday reading and that you’ll use the comments option for this blog post to tell us what you like about the blog and what improvements you would like to see.

We’re taking a two-week break and the first blog post for 2018 will appear on January 9 (Australian time).

The first annual ‘state of the blog’ review was published on 28 December 2016.

Biography: Gabriele Bammer is a professor at The Australian National University in the Research School of Population Health’s National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health. She is developing the new discipline of Integration and Implementation Sciences (i2S) to improve research strengths for tackling complex real-world problems through synthesis of disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge, understanding and managing diverse unknowns and providing integrated research support for policy and practice change. She leads the theme “Building Resources for Complex, Action-Oriented Team Science” at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC).

2 thoughts on “To read or not to read…”

  1. I really enjoy the blog. I am in evaluation and there are significant parallels with your work, at least in terms of my approach to evaluation which is rather aligned with those who see evaluation as a change agent (e.g., M Q Patton among others), so the interchange of ideas is valuable – and once a week was a good shift, I agree. I will endeavour to propose a contribution that discusses these connections in 2018. Best for the season and a successful 2018!


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