Thursday, 20 March 2014

A new morning

So it's the morning after the night before, when I raised a glass to my departing friend and colleague Dr Christian Jarrett. As Editor of the Research Digest and Journalist on The Psychologist, Christian has given more than a decade of exemplary service to the British Psychological Society. Today we pause to pay tribute to him and to look ahead to an exciting new era for the Research Digest.

To me, a job well done is about a legacy left. I can pay no greater compliment to Christian than to echo two sentiments I have heard repeatedly since he announced his departure. Firstly, the Research Digest has been a genuine 'game changer' in the way psychology is taught, reported and perceived. Secondly, to a large extent Christian has become the Research Digest: 'those are big shoes to fill', many have commented. (My Dad was a clown: now those are big shoes to fill).

Over the past week or so, I have been sharing some of Christian's greatest hits on Twitter using the hashtag #psychwriter. It's some body of work: 259 issues of the fortnightly e-mail, well over 1500 journal articles digested, and numerous excellent features in his Psychologist journalist role. Some of my personal favourites: a host of special features on the Digest blog, including 'sin week', 'psychology to the rescue' and 'one nagging thing you still don't understand about yourself'; some phenomenally successful individual Digest posts; and features for The Psychologist on topics as diverse as holidays, horror, homelessness, space, impostor syndrome, virtual reality, pain, architecture, non-conscious influence, competition, humour, cyborgs, the maternal brain, sin, the default mode network, when therapy causes harm, psychology's myths, the journey to undergraduate psychology, and the psychology of stuff and things.

That's quite a back catalogue by anyone's standards, and Christian leaves the Research Digest in rude health: 364,000 page views on the blog in the last month, 32,000 subscribers to the e-mail, 39,000 followers on Twitter. But this isn't just about numbers. We know the Research Digest has had a growing influence in teaching and the media: that is important to us, and it is largely due to the consistency and quality of Christian's work. We thank him warmly, and look forward to his new adventures.

So what next for us?

As you may have seen, the recruitment process is underway. We are thrilled that the Society's leadership have approved the appointment of not one but two full-time posts: a new Research Digest Editor, and a Journalist for The Psychologist. You can find details on the Society's website. These are exciting roles for those with a passion for psychology and science communication. But be quick: the closing date for both roles is 31 March.

This extra resource should allow us to look ambitiously to the future: more regular postings, the integration of our Occupational Digest editor Dr Alex Fradera, and the possibility of multimedia developments such as a regular podcast. Christian and I have already worked on a new HTML version of the Digest e-mail, and on The Psychologist side a new website is on the horizon.

All expansion and development on the Research Digest will remain true to the simple, central aim: research, digested. We want to cement and build upon a reputation as the authoritative source of reports on the latest empirical research in psychology.

Interviews for the posts will take place on 1 and 2 May, so we are hopeful of having a new Digest Editor in position around the start of July. In the meantime, we will get by with a little help from our friends. I have sought out some top bloggers in psychology, people who have perhaps influenced or been influenced by the Research Digest, and from the start of April we will have a series of posts from 'guest hosts': Mind Hacks, the Guardian science blog network, Neuroskeptic, Advances in the History of Psychology, Dr Petra, Melanie Tannenbaum and more. We are grateful to them for helping us avoid 'cyber tumbleweed' and we look forward to their contributions.

With the best will in the world, however, it may be a good few months before anything approaching 'normal service' is resumed. We hope you will bear with us during this period of transition: you make the Research Digest what it is, and we need you on the next leg of our continuing journey.

Post written by Dr Jon Sutton, Managing Editor of The Psychologist, for the BPS Research Digest.

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