Blogging as a bridge between academia and public sphere

Harvard political scientist Stephen Walt wrote an essay on the role of international affairs academics in the public sphere. Not the first of its kind of course, but this essay is a pretty thorough description of the state of the two arenas (academia and policy/public sphere) and how they do not co-exist nearly as much as they should. Walt is speaking as an international relations scholar, but his complaints and recommendations could probably span across academic disciplines (perhaps with the exception of the natural sciences, since people don't have as many intuitions about how quantum mechanics or gene therapy works on which to  base their biases).

The essay is worth a read, if for no other reason, to get an idea of the relationship between the academy and the public sphere over the course of modern history. Among the many suggestions Walt outlines to remedy this broken relationship, he suggests that popular writing (op-eds, articles in newspapers and magazines, blogs, etc) should not be looked down upon within the academy. On the suggestion of blogs, this working paper [PDF] by the World Bank comes to mind. In it, the impact of popular economics blogs is assessed through various experimental and non-experimental means.

The paper offers 3 main take-aways:

  1. Links from blogs cause a striking increase in abstract views or downloads of economics papers.
  2. Blogging raises the profile of the blogger (and his or her institution) and boosts their reputation above economists with similar publication records.
  3. Blogs can transform attitudes about some of the topics they cover.
Edit on September 14, 2011 at 4pm (central): Here are two other( 1 and 2) papers from this conference where Walt will be presenting the paper above. May be of interest in addition to this Walt paper.