Emerging technologies such as blogging and online journals and how they are changing the way scientists communicate was the focus of APA's Fourth Annual Science Leadership Conference (SciLC), in Tempe, Ariz., Oct. 2–4, attended by more than 120 scientists, educators and graduate students.
For grad students, the technologies bring a fresh set of opportunities and difficulties to navigate. Blogging, for instance, has become an important, albeit informal, tool for scientists to share information with the public. But Clemson University psychology professor Richard Pak, PhD, wondered whether blogging could hurt his long-term success because it doesn't have the same respect as publishing in peer-reviewed journals.
"I run a blog that I don't even tell my university about," Pak said. He's concerned his Human Factors Blog (www.humanfactorsblog.org), will be seen as frivolous by department chairs who make tenure decisions.
Alexandra Logue, PhD, provost at the City University of New York, acknowledged the disconnect between wanting young scientists to embrace emerging technologies yet also expecting them to follow the traditional path to tenure.
She said blogging is in some ways like scholarship in that researchers often weigh in on topics using empirical arguments. But there's nothing to hold them to that high standard, she added. Logue suggests that until administrators figure out how to properly measure blogging's merits, it's best not to rely on it as a tool for professional development.
Conference attendee Abby Adler, a clinical psychology grad student at Ohio State University in Columbus, says she will follow that advice. "My current focus is on publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals, since that is how I'll be evaluated when out on the job market," Adler says. "These newer methods may be helpful to connect with a wider audience and refine my research, but they won't be the defining feature."
But some emerging technologies should be harnessed for professional development, speakers said. Online journals offer grad students new ways to learn about other fields, noted Susan Cochran, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Also, by organizing shared databases and borrowing one another's research techniques, psychologists and scientists from other fields can answer questions they weren't able to even ask before, she said.