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Opportunity for A Disciplinary Bulletin Board

- September 1, 2013

Having just returned from the American Political Science Association annual conference (#APSA2013), I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who took the time to offer their kind words about the move to the Washington Post. It was very much appreciated.

Like the rest of the team, I think there are some enormous opportunities here that outweigh the potential drawbacks of the move, most importantly that we will have a much bigger microphone from which to pursue our goal of making the lessons from political science research available to a larger audience. But I also wanted to take some time to address some of the drawbacks that other political scientists raised about the move in my many discussions these past few days.

1) The paywall at the Washington Post. This is the simplest issue to solve. First, for the next 12 months The Monkey Cage will be outside the paywall. That means everyone can continue to access The Monkey Cage however and as often as they want without a subscription to the Post. But more importantly in the long term, you will always be able to access The Monkey Cage for free if you click to our posts through a link from Facebook or Twitter. We have a Facebook page (located here) and a Twitter Feed (located here). Both of these are automated so that posts appear whenever a new post appears on The Monkey Cage. So if you want to see what we are doing by logging on first to Facebook or Twitter and then clicking on the links for the posts you want to read, you will be always be able to do it this way whether or not you have a digital subscription to the Post. So if you have students outside the US who you want to read the blog, you can just send them to either the Facebook or Twitter feeds. And as these pages are public, you do not even need to have a Twitter or Facebook account to access them.

2) The quality of the comments thread: A number of people (and commentators on our original post) expressed the fact that they had learned a lot from discussions following our posts in the past beyond what was in the post itself, as well as a certain degree of skepticism that these kinds of discussions can continue when we are in a more public forum. This may very well turn out to be correct, but the one plea I would make is let’s just try to see if we can keep up useful discussions at The Post. If those of you who are used to providing thoughtful comments now can at least give it a try for a little while when we move, maybe we can establish the site as a place with a reputation for useful discussion. This may very well be wishful thinking, but I’d hope we can at least try.

3) The final point – which will not be of interest to many of our non political scientist readers – is a sense of regret that The Monkey Cage will no longer be able to function as a disciplinary “bulletin board”. As John noted in the replay to “John Dickey” in the post announcing the move, we will still be able to do a little of this when the issues are of broader interest (i.e., threats to research funding in the social sciences), but the reality is that the extent to which we do this is going to drop rather substantially. I count myself on the list of people who do see this as a drawback, especially because I have really enjoyed being able to make these kinds of announcements in the past! So here my suggestion is for someone to take this as an opportunity to establish something new that can meet this need. We’ve demonstrated that there is a demand for this kind of a service: a place for political scientists to alert one another to interesting developments regarding conferences, journals, resources, etc. We’re no longer going to be able to do it, but hopefully someone else will take the opportunity to build a platform that can fill this void – I know that I would definitely be a regular visitor to such a site. I hope maybe people can throw out some ideas below in the comments section, but I’ll start with a couple thoughts.

First, I wonder how many eyeballs will regularly return to a page that is just a bulletin board.  Put another way, I wonder if it is better to embed this function within another site (like it was at The Monkey Cage) or if it could stand on its own.

Second, I would recommend that someone or some organization actively run the site, as opposed to setting it up as a wiki.

Finally, I think there might be resources for supporting such a site within the major political science associations.  There is always interest in these organizations as to how they can better serve their members; so if there is a demand for this type of product, then it might be a natural fit for the mission of the associations.

As I always, I welcome comments and thoughts.