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Podcasting as Digital Scholarship: Some Considerations and Resources

Podcasts as digital scholarship have emerged as a collaborative tool in multiple academic disciplines for both research and teaching. Some scholars turn to podcasts for their format, which is typically public-facing, user- and cost-friendly, and easily shareable and preservable. Others are additionally interested in the ways in which podcasts can increase accessible and equitable publishing opportunities, especially given considerations for open access publishing like the prohibitive article processing publishing charges in some fields, and the scarcity of funding for some publishers to transition to open access. For scholars of all ranks and varying levels of institutional funding or support then, podcasts can provide a compelling option for sharing research globally. Continue reading to learn more about considerations and resources for recording and publishing podcasts as digital scholarship with the support of Penn Libraries. 

The image depicts a microphone for recording podcasts

This blog post follows up on a workshop presentation on November 17, 2023, in which Cosette Bruhns Alonso, Contemporary Publishing Fellow in Penn Libraries' Research Data and Digital Scholarship team and University of Pennsylvania Press, led a workshop and conversation for Penn graduate students on considerations for creating or sharing scholarship on podcasts as part of the Support for Publishing Series. Coordinated in collaboration between Penn Libraries and Penn Graduate Center, this series introduces publishing considerations and support tools in weekly workshops during the academic year. For more information about the series, email Rebecca Stuhr, Assistant University Librarian for Academic Engagement & Director of Arts and Culture Libraries (stuhrreb@pobox.upenn.edu) or JoEllen McBride, Associate Director of the Graduate Student Center (jomcb@upenn.edu).

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Podcasts have emerged as a collaborative tool in multiple academic disciplines for both research and teaching. Some scholars turn to podcasts for their format, which is typically public-facing, user- and cost-friendly, and easily shareable and preservable. Others are additionally interested in the ways in which podcasts can increase accessible and equitable publishing opportunities, especially given considerations for open access publishing like the prohibitive article processing publishing charges in some fields, and the scarcity of funding for some publishers to transition to open access. For scholars of all ranks and varying levels of institutional funding or support then, podcasts can provide a compelling option for sharing research globally.

However, despite the potential affordances of publishing scholarship in a podcast, many institutions continue to privilege or even require conventional print publications as the preferred format for sharing scholarship with hiring, tenure, and promotion committees, raising questions for scholars about how their research will count, or be understood or received, if distributed in formats like podcasts.

While the conversation around what counts as scholarship looks different at each institution, there are several ways in which the scholarly publishing community and university publishers are working to address this concern. One way of advancing the conversation around ensuring that scholarly podcasts are accepted/respected (and citable) as research is through establishing methods for evaluating podcasts, without compromising the unique affordances of the format, especially the space it provides for creativity.

For example, Wilfrid Laurier University Press (WLUP), based in Ontario, Canada, has developed a peer review process for their podcast series, Secret Feminist Agenda, edited by Dr. Hannah McGregor. Working with Dr. McGregor and Simon Fraser University/Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing, WLUP has been collaborating to devise editorial methodologies for evaluating, producing, peer reviewing, and distributing podcasts as a form of scholarly communication. However, unlike the blind peer review models followed in most conventional publishing, WLUP has elected to transparently share their metrics of evaluation (the questions reviewers are responding to), as well as the names and professional affiliation of the reviewers, making it possible for other scholarly podcast producers and publishers to learn from their methods. When seeking out a podcast publishing venue, taking into consideration the scope of the series, the audience, interview length, copyright, distribution, and accessibility, will continue to be important factors for identifying podcasts that align with an author's aims.

In addition to practices for making podcasts understandable to scholarly communities, there are other compelling reasons to consider developing podcasts. For example, considering how podcasts can reach beyond academic audiences to reach local, regional, and global communities is another unique affordance of an open-access format. By distributing podcasts on social media or podcasts streaming services, scholarly podcasts can make the knowledge and resources of institutions more accessible for public audiences. The inclusion of transcripts for most scholarly podcasts is another way in which podcasts can provide a format for sharing scholarship that is accessible for multiple  audiences.

Finally, scholars have also created resources and toolkits for sharing how they integrate podcasts into their research and teaching, in order to expand the community of practice and number of scholarly podcasts available. With respect to pedagogy in particular, there are a number of guides and resources available that share tips for assigning podcasts in the classroom in lieu of reading, or as collaborative assignments created by students that enact creativity and other related skill sets in addition to writing. The Humanities Podcast Network in particular is a great website for identifying resources that integrate podcasts into the classroom, including guidance for accessibility, media, and technical considerations. Their annual symposium is another significant resource for recordings and ideas for how scholars are expanding the use of podcasts in both their teaching and research.

The considerations shared here address how scholarly podcasts are being evaluated, promoting public-facing dialogue and accessibility, and integrating in research and teaching. As a flexible format, however, the ways in which scholars use podcasts will continue to expand. For anyone seeking to explore the range of options for creating podcasts for research or teaching it is useful to review the resources available through their libraries and institutions and to get involved with a community of practice to learn about emerging paths and considerations.  

Support for creating and publishing podcasts is widely available across Penn's campus, with resources and equipment accessible to use and borrow with a PennKey both in Penn Libraries' Vitale Digital Media Lab and the Center for Experimental Ethnography, located in Penn Museum. The Penn Libraries Audio and Recording and Editing LibGuide is an additional resource for learning about software for recording, editing, and producing transcripts for podcasts.