Christopher Wright – Climate, People & Organisations

It’s been a year since Science Media Space was launched and we wanted to revisit a participant from our first course in February 2013. As a result of the course Prof Christopher Wright of the University of Sydney Business School, started his blog Climate, People & Organisations. We asked Christopher to share how the course had changed his interaction on social media.

Advantages of Undertaking Science Media Space

The course opened my eyes to the potential of blogs. I’d followed others blogs (e.g. Deborah Lupton’s Simple Sociology), but hadn’t really appreciated them as a viable communication tool for academic researchers.

The way the course introduced each module gradually with practical exercises and peer support was perfect for a beginner like me.

For the final module, I ended up staying awake until 2am setting up my new blog: Climate, People & Organisations. I blog about my current research focus – the impacts of climate change on business organisations and society – and my strong personal interest in the environment. I used some of the content I’d developed in the course to get started.

Acquiring a habit

Since the course, I’ve become addicted to blogging (Climate, People & Organisations now has over 40 posts).

Typically an idea for a blog post will come from something I’ve read or seen, or from producing a summary or op-ed based on a recent publication. I also keep a backlog of ideas for future posts on my WordPress desktop and in Evernote.

To write the posts, takes a lot of time, but there are rewards in terms of crystallising my arguments. Blogging gives me the space to draw on the praxis between my research and daily experiences and interact with a wider audience.

A favourite post leads to broader media impact

My favourite post to write was in response to an unsolicited email I received from a senior scientist from a US environmental agency. She’d seen my post on a symposium I ran featuring Prof Andy Hoffman from the University of Michigan, an expert on business and climate change. The video had resonated with her personal experience – she was vexed by having to oversee oil and coal developments and talked about how she had decided to change her job as a result.

This kicked off a new post on how we might proceed as professionals and individuals and where we draw the line when there are disconnects between our personal attitudes and organisational requirements – real direct action. I’m fascinated by how we might make those decisions.

This was one of several posts republished by Renew Economy and The Conversation. The later most recently republished another of my posts in response to the latest IPCC report and how business myths fail to serve us. My blogging has also led to media interviews with the ABC.

Climate change research is an area with a lot of public interest and it is a challenging space in which to engage. Climate change tends to be political, controversial and vexed, so I do get my share of nutters and trolls. I maintain oversight of comments via the WordPress desktop, and respond to most comments I receive, which helps with building my readership.

Having people engage with the research is good. It feels like you’re having an impact beyond your peer group. Impact is likely to grow in importance as an academic measure. By blogging, using social media and engaging further with mainstream media I am able to show that I am amplifying the reach and potential impact of my work.

Beyond blogging

Using a range of social media platforms is important. For instance, Twitter is invaluable for me as a news and information source that can be tailored to my interests via ‘lists’. LinkedIn and Facebook are also useful in not only communicating to other social networks (professional and personal) but can also provide links to new information. I think you need to be aware of the different audiences and purposes these platforms serve and how they can work together – I’m still working this out!