Thing 22: Podcasting and public engagement

Our penultimate Thing looks into the world of podcasting, for your own research and finding new audiences. How can we communicate differently, and boost research impact? Our guide is Maria Northcote, Director of Higher Degree Research at Avondale University College.



a pod of dolphins
'So Long and Thanks for all the Fish'

Can you remember what you were doing in 2003? Where were you? What technology were you using in your everyday life? What technology did you use at work?

One thing’s for sure … you probably weren’t talking about podcasting or listening to podcasts because they didn’t exist in those days. So, what is a podcast? What is podcasting? How can it help our work, study or research in universities? How can podcasting engage the public in our work, study or research?


Podcasts are audio programs, usually available to listeners online through a series of regularly produced episodes. Listening to a podcast episode is a bit like listening to an old-fashioned radio program. The process of subscribing to a podcast is similar to the process of buying a subscription to a regularly published magazine. With a magazine, you buy a subscription (perhaps you pay an annual fee) and then receive the latest edition of that magazine as soon as it is published. Podcast listeners subscribe to a podcast through a podcatcher (a software designed to download files like audio podcast files). Podcast programs include iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Castro, or Stitcher which can be accessed by an internet-connected device (laptop, tablet, phone). Once you subscribe to a podcast, the last edition of that podcast is automatically downloaded by your device. Some podcasts have their own website and their podcast episodes can be accessed directly from the podcast’s website (via streaming software).


From the early days of podcasting, many people around the world, including researchers, teachers and academics at universities, recognised the value of podcasting for learning and teaching purposes, especially in terms of public engagement. Because podcasts are so easily accessible, opportunities grew for universities and educational institutions to share their work with the world.

A number of podcasts now exist that are focused on discussing teaching and learning in higher education, such as:


Teaching in Higher Ed podcast

The Harvard EdCast

the Evidence Based Education Podcast.


However, it hasn’t been until the last five or so years that podcasting has really taken off as a popular medium. If you’re interested in the history of podcasting, check out these sites:

Podcasting historical timeline and milestones

The complete history of podcasts (Voices Blog)

Podcast (Wikipedia)

History of podcasting (Wikipedia)


Unlike commercially produced and pay-as-you-go technology like Netflix, for movies, and Spotify, for songs and audio, the process of accessing podcasts has remained largely free of charge or involves a minimal cost. In fact, many podcasts are now sourced via crowdsourcing sites, including Patreon. The process of getting hold of a podcast has remained fairly open, reflecting the homegrown nature of the origins of podcasting.


To really understand the appeal of podcasts, we’d recommend listening to a handful of podcasts on a topic you’re interested in. Choose one of the podcatchers listed earlier and search for a topic that grabs your interest. Pick a topic, any topic. You’ll more than likely come across a podcast or two that is devoted to your topic of interest. For example, if you’re interested in philosophy, here are a handful of podcasts from around the world that you can listen to, right now:


History of philosophy without any gaps, a podcast by Professor of Philosophy, Peter Adamson, at the LMU in Munich and King’s College London.

Philosophize this!, a podcast by Stephen West from Seattle who is committed to “sharing ideas that shaped the world in an easy to understand way”.

The Philosopher’s Zone, a podcast hosted by David Rutledge and produced by ABC Radio National in Australia.


By the way, if you’re a True Crime buff, the world of podcasting is a place you don’t want to miss out on. For an engaging listening experience, check out highly successful podcast, Serial, a podcast launched in late 2014 from the creators of the This American Life podcast. Serial is often described as the most popular podcast in the history of podcasting. The launch and success of this podcast is often cited as being one of the main triggers for the more recent popularity of the medium.


Now … back to higher education, universities, researching and research … Listening to and producing podcasts is becoming more and more popular in the higher education sector. Podcasting is a medium that offers opportunities to share the work of people who work and study in universities. In terms of the public’s engagement with our work and research, podcasting represents a relatively quick and easy way to communicate information about, and results of, our research, in addition to the more lengthy process of producing scholarly publications.


Task

Your task this week is twofold – Step 1 is a relatively passive listening activity and Step 2 is a more active challenge.

Step 1: Listen to a podcast episode about research or research impact in higher education from one of the following six research-focused podcasts. Some of these podcasts are broadcast from the institutions in which some of our 23 Things facilitators work.


As academics, researchers and research candidates, we’re all interested in research, right? In 2021, if you’re interested in research, you’re probably also interested in research impact. Professor Mark Reed from Newcastle University (UK) hosts a podcast called Fast Track Impact which explains how “evidence-based tools empower busy researchers to use their work to change the world”. Prof. Reed describes research impact as “the good that researchers can do in the world”. Click on the Fast Track Impact homepage to select an episode that interests you, or click on one of the links below to access a previous episode of this very popular podcast:


What made a 4* case study in REF2014? Discussion between Mark Reed and Bella Reichard, 25 February 2020

Evidencing impact (Part 1), 12 December 2019

Evidencing impact (Part 2), 12 December 2019

Generating significant and original research using the poet Keats’ creative process, 10 October 2019



Hear about the innovative work that is happening at the University of Surrey, in the Surrey Speaks podcast on Spotify. This podcast is “a research-based, academic podcast series. We want to celebrate the wonderful, weird and innovative work and minds associated with the University of Surrey”. Click on the Surrey Speaks podcast on their Spotify page to select an episode that interests you, or click on one of the links below to access a previous episode of this podcast:


Let’s talk about men’s mental health, 12 May 2021

Artificial intelligence, 5 March 2021

COVID-19: Vaccination questions answered, 19 April 2021



Listen to TORCH: The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities from the University of Oxford. This podcast is sponsored by TORCH | The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, which is described as “a major new initiative that seeks to build on this heritage and to stimulate and support research that transcends disciplinary and institutional boundaries.” Here we feature some of the networks and programmes, as well as recordings of events, and offer insights into the research that they make possible”. Click on the TORCH: The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities page to select an episode that interests you, or click on one of the links below to access a previous episode of this podcast:


In Conversation with Lolita Chakrabarti, 21 May 2021

Book at Lunchtime: Charles Dickens and the Properties of Fiction - The Lodger World, 10 March 2021

Writing and Resistance – The White Rose Pamphlets: A Live Reading, 1 March 2021


In the COVID-19 era, who isn’t interested in infection control and infection prevention? Launched in April 2021, Prof. Brett Mitchell from the University of Newcastle (NSW, Australia), along with his colleagues Associate Professor Deborah Friedman (Barwon Health), Martin Kiernan (University of West London and University of Newcastle) and Associate Professor Philip Russo (Monash University), discuss “new research and issues on the topic of infection prevention and control” on the podcast, Infection Control Matters. The podcast features interviews with authors of papers that are focused on infection prevention and control issues. Click on the Infection Control Matters Apple Podcasts page to select an episode that interests you, or click on one of the links below to access a previous episode of this newly launched podcast:


(For the sake of transparency – or intrigue! – the author of this blogpost is interviewed in the 19 May 2020 episode.)

Sociology and Qualitative research and IPC with Professor Maria Northcote and Dr Cassie Curryer, 19 May 2021

Hand hygiene at critical points and the sequence of patient care with Professor Loreen Herwaldt, 12 May 2021

The COVID-19 Evidence Taskforce with A/Professor Julian Elliott and Dr Tari Turner, 21 April 2021



Sometimes reading a research paper may not be all that inspiring. If you’d like to hear the story behind it, listen to the Beyond the Paper podcast from Sydney’s Macquarie University, in which researchers are interviewed about their research. Click on the Beyond the Paper page on Sound Cloud to select an episode that interests you, or click on one of the links below to access a previous episode of this popular podcast:


Chiropractic, Episode 5, Matt Fernandez, 20 November 2019

Psychology, Episode 1, Steven Most, 4 April 2019

Linguistics, Episode 11, Jean Cho, 19 February 2019



Listen to the Avondale Research Series of podcasts from Avondale University College in NSW, Australia. Avondale ran a series of podcasts about the institution’s researchers and their research during the last few years. In this series, listen to “leading researchers at Avondale University College in conversation with Associate Professor Carolyn Rickett and guest presenters”. Click on the Avondale Research Series page on Apple Podcasts to select an episode that interests you, or click on one of the links below to access a previous episode of this podcast:


Dr Sherry Hattingh: Internationalisation, 14 June 2019

Assoc. Prof. Malcolm Anderson and Prof. Grahame Simpson: Resilience in caregivers of those with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), 14 June 2019


Step 2: Find a podcast

Now, let’s do some active searching. Use one of the programs listed above for accessing podcasts (e.g., as iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Castro or Stitcher). Then, search for and subscribe to a podcast or two that interests you – the topic may be related to your work, study or research, or it may just be a topic of personal interest. Listen to one of two of the episodes and record a few observations or questions about the podcast you listen to. Share your observations or questions with members of your pod this week.


Happy listening! We are looking forward to hearing from you – especially in terms of the podcasts you found and listened to during your work in the 23 Things program this week. We’d love to hear any of your recommendations on the forum.



Hold everything! This week's "The Infinite Monkey Cage" just dropped!

All links above were functional on 23 May 2021. Please email Maria Northcote if any of the links are not working (maria.northcote@avondale.edu.au).


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