Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Goodbye, and thanks for the ride!

The creator of the Research Digest blog is moving on ...
We had a habit, my wife and I, of walking on Saturday afternoons along the pretty narrowboat canal between Slaithwaite and Marsden, in West Yorkshire. We'd buy The Guardian when we got there, find a cosy cafe, and I'd flick through the jobs section with tea and a scone. Nearing the end of my PhD, I was in a quandary over what I'd do next. I knew I couldn't spend the rest of my life studying eye movements, discovering more and more about less and less.

But can you really earn a living out of a fascination with psychology and a love for writing, as I hoped to do? I'd managed to find a few freelance opportunities, but not enough to form the foundation of a career. The weekends rolled by and I was beginning to think my dream job didn't really exist.

Then one day in 2003, around the time that millions marched on London against the Iraq war, I saw it. The British Psychological Society were seeking a part-time Editor/Writer for their new "e" Research Digest (the ad put the quaint "e" in inverted commas just like that, in reference to the Digest being an email newsletter). I couldn't believe my eyes.
"The role involves researching journal papers in psychology, and editing and re-writing these into a brief accurate and user-friendly format ..." it said. 
Well, here we are, eleven years on. I've written and edited 259 Research Digest fortnightly emails in that time, not missing a single issue. This means I've digested well over 1,500 journal articles! The fact is, my dream job quickly became a passion. The distinction between work and pleasure was blurred. The email subscriber counts took off, heart-warming feedback began to filter through, from teachers, journalists, lecturers, clinicians and students.

With this reception, I felt it wasn't enough to restrict the Digest to a fortnightly email. In 2005, I created the Research Digest blog, allowing the freedom for images, more interaction with readers, and the chance to reach new audiences. The blog started to break the US and the rest of world - Digest posts were getting picked up by The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Freakonomics, and many, many more. In 2010, the Digest won Best Psychology Blog in the inaugural Research Blogging Awards.

My aim throughout has been to strike a delicate balance - to showcase the science of psychology, to share my enthusiasm for the subject, but to also include a healthy dose of scepticism. I've strived to cover every corner of the discipline, from sighing rats to crying therapists, from hiding toddlers to neuroscience power failures.

I've added more features: Extras posts to list all those eye-catching studies I didn't have time to report on; Special Issue Spotter posts to keep readers up to speed; annual retrospectives; advertisements, so that by last year the Digest was virtually self-financing; I helped launch the Occupational Digest; and in more recent years, introduced Feast posts summarising the best psychology resources and articles from the previous week. And I've invited others to the party. For example, in 2009, I had great fun asking psychologists to reveal "one nagging thing they still don't understand about themselves" (see all the guest features). The evolution continues. I'm pleased to say that a new, colourful html version of the Digest email is just around the corner.

Back in 2003 I could never have imagined how the Digest would take off (over 8.5 million blog page views since 2007, including 364,000 during the last month. We now have over 32,000 subscribers to the email, and over 38,000 followers on Twitter), nor where it would take me. Among other invites, I've given a talk in a pub basement in Manchester on "lessons for life from the Research Digest", and twice chatted on Radio 4 about items from the Digest.

But all good things must come to an end. While it's time for me to move on to new challenges, I'm delighted to announce that the British Psychological Society have agreed to replace my half-time editor position with a new full-time editor, maximising the chance to build on the Digest success so far. Adverts for the job are on the BPS website. Maybe today you will be walking along your equivalent of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, wondering what next to do with your career. If so, and if this opportunity is for you - good luck! (By the way, I'm also leaving my other half-time role as journalist on The Psychologist - adverts for this position, also being expanded to full-time, are here).

I want to thank sincerely all you Digest readers, everyone who has contributed to or commented on the blog, everyone who has supported the Digest, my manager and colleague Jon Sutton, and all those of you who have sent me such generous feedback. It really has been a pleasure. Please do stay in touch. I'm on Twitter @Psych_Writer, and other ways to reach me are on my website.

Goodbye, and thanks for the ride!
_________________________________

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

35 comments:

  1. Thank you Christian. It has been a pleasure, and you leave quite a legacy. All the best for the future - stay in touch.

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  2. Susan Grey11:13 am

    A hard act to follow. Good luck! Sue Grey

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  3. Fiona Collard11:23 am

    Noooo :-(

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  4. What a pleasure it's been reading your work on the Research Digest over the years Christian. A pleasure I'm sure that will continue in other venues, but still sad to see you go. Here's to new adventures!

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  5. Thank you very much for all your work and innovation; I always love ''opening'' the Digests.

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  6. Christian, your writings are some of the very best on psychology. EVER! And the influence of your work on the public perceptions of our field and its policy implications can never be over-estimated.Happy trails as you ride to the tunes of Michael Jackson. George

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  7. Thank you so much - I've long valued what you've been doing. Will watch this space for your next moves! Sarah

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  8. Harriet Hunt2:46 pm

    Thank you so much Christian; I've followed the Research Digest avidly from cub psychologist to fully fledged researcher and have not only thoroughly enjoyed your writing style but learnt a great deal. Best of luck in the future and thanks again.

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  9. Is it really 10 years? You've done an amazing job at keeping it fresh and innovative all this time. I admire the way you've always steered a measured course avoiding the usual online excesses of breathless credulity or scornful criticism. Maybe a career at the UN beckons?

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  10. thanks to you all for your kind messages.

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  11. Best of luck with everything Christian. I'm sure our writing paths will cross again: Mind Hacks, Digests, who knows what next! And I'm sure I'll see you before too long.

    Well done on an amazing tenure and legacy.

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  12. Anonymous2:11 am

    I found this blog, as well as Mind Hacks about 5 years ago as I entered my new phase of life- survivor of a severe TBI (GCS, 6 or so).
    You have been most helpful in providing articles that are interesting , and sometimes exceedingly relevant.

    All the best

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  13. Sending you all the best. This blog has been a delight, and I certainly hope that it continues to engage, educate and entertain.

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  14. Thank you for your thoughtful and well-written posts. Your successor has big shoes to fill!

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  15. Thank you for setting up this blog. It has tremendously helped me and my Psychology students as we looked through the research papers you have included in the blog.

    Many thanks from us in Brunei.

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  16. Thanks for doing such a tremendous job Christian, you've created something of an institution! Best wishes for the future!

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  17. Thanks Neurobonkers, Alex and others - I really appreciate your kind messages.

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  18. Agree with all the above, great job - but shouldn't the headline end "...and thanks for all the fish"?

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  19. You've done a great job, thanks very much. Good luck with your next adventure

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  20. Christian, you have been awesome! You ll be missed by so many, good luck in all you do. Karen

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  21. Best of luck in your new adventures, Christian. Thanks for digesting the research so admirably and saving the best morsels for us all to enjoy.

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  22. Catriona Morrison10:36 am

    Christian - you've done a fantastic job and it has really enhanced the visibility of psychology and the Society. You will be a hard act to follow. Good luck for the future.

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  23. The Research Digest has been a remarkable achievement and you will indeed be a hard act to follow Christian.

    With all best wishes for success in the future

    Emma

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    1. Thanks so much Karen, Catriona and others for your kind comments - I really do appreciate them.

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  24. Anonymous9:36 am

    I'm a normal guy with interest in psychology. I enjoyed reading a lot of your articles on 99u.com, Christian.

    I have a serious question. You said above:

    "but to also include a healthy dose of scepticism"

    What dictates a 'healthy dose' of scepticism? My common sense tells me that being consciously aware of a 'healthy dose of scepticism" nullifies the notion of scepticism.

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  25. Dear Dr. Jarrett,

    Thanks for the intellectual and practical ride you have been providing me since I first found your blog in 2007. As a business owner in the U.S. providing retirement plan services to employers, your blog posts have provided food for thought with clients, and a jumping off point for more than a few of my own posts on our The Retirement Plan Blog, www.retirementplanblog.com, including a review (favorable) of your book, "This Book Has Issues" in 2009. So good luck, but hopefully not goodbye. This left-brain (mostly) readers looks forward to staying in touch. @jerrykalish.

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  26. You will be greatly missed

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  27. Anonymous11:38 am

    Great work Christian. Well done! All the best to you and your family.

    Ariel Klein

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  28. Christian, I'm one of the 38,000, and wanted to thank you for your consistently enjoyable posts and special features. Your reports on studies always present information carefully and succinctly, with the kind of balance that shows you think clearly about the reasonableness and meaning of the work. Big shoes to fill.... Best wishes in future endeavors.

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  29. Thanks so much Jerry, Stuart, Ariel and Nora for your kind comments.

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  30. Anonymous11:43 am

    Its been a real pleasure to work with you over the last 6 years.

    All the best for the future

    Debs

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  31. Jon Mueller7:35 pm

    What a pleasure it has been to read your work here. So interesting, so valuable. Work like yours and others has inspired me to share psychological science through websites such as

    http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/crow/

    which is peppered with links to many of your excellent entries. Thanks so much. Good luck with future endeavors.

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  32. John H1:28 pm

    Christian,
    The digest helped me stay in touch with psychology as I headed out into the real world after my psych degree, and made sure I kept interested. I'm sure it must have played a part in bringing me back into the psych fold too - I cannot recommend it highly enough to my undergrad students now. Thanks for doing a great job, and good luck.

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  33. thanks Debs, Jon M and John H!

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  34. Anonymous10:29 am

    I will miss your writing in The Psychologist - I always thought it was very high quality. You will be a hard act to follow!

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