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Academic Tech: Podcasts for research

In a recent APA blog post historian of philosophy and pun-loving podcaster, Peter Adamson, floated the idea of using podcasts for teaching. Sounds like a good idea, sure. In this post, I’d like to focus on the idea of using podcasts for research. As I see it, podcasts could be AMAZING for research! Yeah, like, all-caps amazing!

The Vision

Consider academic books and journal articles. They are becoming increasingly accessible – sure. But still, very few people read them and there are still loads of obstacles to overcome before one can even start reading a book or paper.

Imagine how much easier it would be to find and consume books or papers if they automatically appeared in a podcast feed and one could listen to them on to go! The normal constraints that keep people from finding or reading would be gone. You would not have to continually search for papers and scholars in your area. You just subscribe to a few podcast feeds and everything would come to you. And you would not have to carve out time to sit by a paper [or a reading device] for extended periods of time. Further, daily tasks would not prevent you from research! You could listen to a paper or a chapter while getting ready in the morning, while commuting, while exercising, while cooking, while falling asleep, or – the old-fashioned way – while sitting in an armchair.

Can’t we already listen to text?

Sure, there are text-to-voice applications out there that already make this possible, but even that would require a series of manual tasks. First, you’d have to find a paper that interested you. Then you’d have to download it (and maybe enter institutional credentials to do so). And then you’d have to open the paper in a text-to-voice app, etc. …and you’d have to do this every time you want to listen to a paper or chapter!

Automation, Accessibility, & Impact

The podcast ecosystem, however, is almost fully automated. All you have to do is subscribe to podcast feeds and the interwebs will take care of the rest!

For instance, imagine that you could subscribe to a philosophy journal’s podcast feed. Every time the journal released a new issue, they would not only add PDFs to their website, they would also release corresponding podcasts to their podcast feed(s).

Now imagine that each research topic, conference, philosopher, etc. had a podcast feed. You just select in your research topics, affiliations, colleagues, etc. and then you let the content come to you! 

Notice that services like Google Scholar, ResearchGate, and Academia.edu sort of do this already for digital papers and books. And notice that using these services is associated with increased readership, citations, etc. These seems like additional reason ms in favor of podcasts for research: accessibility and impact.

Who’s gonna record all these podcasts?

Do academics have to record themselves reading all of their published papers and chapters? I suppose that’s one option. 

Another option would be the text-to-voice route, which — again — could be automated. Some people might find automated voices a bit too robotic. I don’t have a problem with them, so I would welcome podcasted papers from automated voices.


The more I think about this, the more that I think podcasts have at least as much value for research as they do for teaching. What do you think?


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Nick Byrd

Nick is a cognitive scientist studying reasoning, wellbeing, and willpower. When he is not teaching, in the lab, writing, exercising, or relaxing, he is blogging at www.byrdnick.com/blog