What Is a Research Blog?

We know. Social media feels frivolous. You’d prefer to leave the blogging to the soccer moms and the tweeting to, er, Anthony Weiner or Miley Cyrus. With the media frenzy that the young and fabulous often garner, it’s hard to see a place for substantive issues like childhood poverty in the blogosphere. How can you possibly convey complex ideas like regional transit policy in a 500-word blog post, or worse, a 140-character tweet? And moreover, why would you want to?

Well, first, because it’s where the exchange of ideas is happening. There is already a conversation taking place on social media about early childhood education, for example, and economic policy, and smart growth. Niche communities of researchers, policymakers, and the media have embraced these tools as ways to share ideas among like-minded colleagues.

“It became clear that ignoring the phenomenon wasn’t going to work,” MDRC’s communications director John Hutchins told Barbara last year. “We were already part of the conversation. People on Twitter and in the blogs were making us a part of the conversation and we weren’t even seeing it. We’ve realized it’s not a question of whether to get involved. It’s how.”

If you feel similarly, we can help. Over the past four years, we’ve been perfecting a model for blogging and social media that works for researchers. Instead of strong opinion, our posts are balanced and measured, yet still engaging. Most importantly, they contain smart information that people can use.

We take advantage of a news moment or a recent research release and use that to highlight your work. We break down your findings into language policymakers can use, and pull in other resources that fill out the context of the findings. The curatorial aspect of the blog—pulling together related content from around the web—means that readers come to rely on your blog as a valuable resource—a one-stop must-read.

And we stand out in another way: we aren’t afraid to dive in and read complex documents. In fact, we’re likely reading your research and publications already during our daily dive into the social policy landscape. We understand what terms like “randomized control” and “statistical significance” mean. And we know the difference between research and advocacy. We’re not afraid of nuance, and we understand the need to be objective.

At the Brookings Institution, for example, we’re working with Alan Berube and Elizabeth Kneebone to expand the community and develop the conversation around their book, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.” Through weekly blog posts we help put their research and resources into the hands of the regional policymakers across the country who need it most.

A recent post on homelessness, for example, documented the extent of this widening problem and linked it to the growing poverty in the suburbs—the theme of the book. We then highlighted some solutions that Alan and Elizabeth offer in their book, and did some sleuthing online for similar examples to expand the discussion. Once the post was up, we tweeted it out several times over the course of a few days, mentioning all the people we featured so they could share it with their own networks, bringing new readers to the site.

Beyond blogging, we also continue to provide editing, writing, and other communications services. We recently redesigned our website, and asked our clients to brag about us in testimonials (not an easy ask for those of us who prefer to work behind the scenes). But what came back was really wonderful. Greg Duncan, an economist who was recently awarded the 2013 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize for his work on the long-term effects of child poverty, had this to say about Barbara:

“I find her editorial instincts to be remarkable. She engages with the ideas, never taking liberties with the manuscript but at the same time she does not shy away from making suggestions for substantial changes.”

The writing and editing we do is different because of our unique set of skills. Let us engage with your ideas—the world needs them. We’d love to dig in. Get in touch here.

Ready to learn more? Get in touch.