Podcasts are a convenient, portable, and easily-accessed way to ingest information and gather new information and skills. They are often free, and even when there is a charge it is usually nominal. You can listen to a podcast anywhere – at home, during your commute, at the gym… podcasts truly may be the most accessible, versatile mode of information sharing the world has ever seen.
For academics, podcasts are an excellent source of information to help improve writing skills, learn about new tech that can streamline your workflows, find out about recent advancements in your field of study, and navigate the processes and politics that come with a career in academia. They are also a fun, creative way for academics to discuss issues related to their personal areas of interest.
A quick Google search will deliver you dozens, if not hundreds, of podcasts created specifically by and for academics. After spending a lot of time listening to and reviewing many of them, I’ve created a list of the 9 best academic podcasts created by, and for, professors, researchers, and graduate students.
Launched in December 2019 and also listed as one of our favorite academic blogs, The Professor is In is a fantastic guide for graduate students and early-career academics trying to navigate the nuances of getting a job and building their careers.
The podcast and blog are both run by Karen Kelsky and Kel Weinhold. Karen Kelsky is a researcher with 15-years of experience as Professor and Department Head at the University of Oregon and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After spending two years to land her first tenure-track job, she decided to step back from the university environment and steer her career towards providing advice and coaching. This lead to The Professor is In blog and podcast.
Each episode examines a new topic faced by early-career academics as they search for employment, build their professional brand and grow in their careers. New episodes are posted weekly and are anywhere from 30-45 minutes in length.
- Number of episodes: 90+
- Popular episode: 2:40 Resisting the Culture of Overwork
2. More or Less
This economics-focused podcast is especially relevant in this current world of misinformation and fake news. It is interesting and insightful for any person interested in unpacking the information served to society by the media, but especially relevant for researchers questioning their own quantitative methods.
Each episode dives into the numbers being used as evidence in recent news studies, from the number of animals born every day, to natural disasters on the rise, to troop numbers in Ukraine, to Covid tests, climate shifts, and more. It is hosted by Tim Harford on BBC Radio 4. The podcast began in May 2015 and currently has over 800 episodes.
It is updated weekly and episodes range in length from under 10 minutes to over 30 minutes.
- Number of episodes: 810+
- Popular episode: Does the UK Take in More Refugees Than Other Countries?
Hosted by Dr. Rebecca Roache, a career and motivational coach and senior lecturer in Philosophy at the University of London, the Academic Imperfectionist combines philosophy, psychology, and application of self-love and self-acceptance to help academics let go of their perfectionist tendencies and build a life and career around their own personal strengths.
It’s a great resource for any academic, or professional in any field, to understand that ‘perfect is the enemy of done,’ and overcoming perfectionism can cause a significantly positive change in your life. The podcast was first launched in October 2020. Each episode is posted alongside free, downloadable resources to help you understand some of the source content studied by Dr Roache, meant to help listeners dive deeper into the topic on their own time.
New episodes are released every two weeks and each one is between 15 and 20 minutes in length.
- Number of episodes: 35
- Popular episode: You Don’t Know What Success Means Until You Know Who You Are
Sawbones is fun, interesting, and sometimes a gorry exploration of the many ways medical researchers have treated disease and injury throughout history. It’s interesting to anyone with a fascination with medical history, but especially pertinent to researchers in the areas of medicine, healthcare, and medical technologies. Listeners learn about common topics like vaccines and healing through plants, to bizarre treatments like testicle tanning and medical insights into historical events like Medicine in Japanese American Concentration Camps.
Sawbones is hosted by Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin. The website hosting this podcast also provides written transcripts of each episode, and posts bonus content like quizzes and Q&As. Sawbones was launched in June, 2013.
New episodes are posted multiple times per week and each last about 40 minutes.
- Number of episodes: over 390
- Popular episode: Tis the Season for Weird Medical Questions
Launched in April 2015, PhDivas is a podcast about “academia, culture, and social justice across the STEM/humanities divide.” It is helpful and relevant for researchers from any discipline – providing value for those studying social sciences or humanities, medicine or engineering, and especially those with an interest in feminism and women’s empowerment. Episodes are usually structured around giving interviews, providing academic advice about research and career building, and hosting pertinent discussions about activism, academia, and how they relate. The hosts cover topics common in the field of women’s and gender studies such as imposter syndrome, over-achievement, and rejection.
The podcast is hosted by Liz Wayne, who has a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Cornell University and Christine “Xine” Yao, a lecturer in American Literature in the English Department at University College in London. The two work together to bridge the gap between sciences and the humanities, producing a podcast that is both entertaining and witty – perfect easy listening for a lunchtime walk to get you away from your desk. It is a diverse and popular podcast, boasting listeners from over 100 countries and with episodes that have been played more than 20,000 times.
New episodes are posted sporadically – sometimes on a monthly cadence and sometimes every few months, ranging in length from 30 minutes to over an hour.
- Number of episodes: over 100
- Popular episode: Advice for Early Graduate Students
I love this podcast.
The Alluisionist is a podcast about language, hosted by Helen Zaltzman, a graduate of St. Catherine’s College at Oxford University. The podcast was launched in January 2015 to rave reviews. It was recognized as iTunes UK’s best new podcast of 2015 and described by The Guardian as "an antidote to all the whither-life-and-how-to-understand-it podcasts". It is relevant to anyone interested in the many ways that words help shape our lives, particularly helpful to professors looking for ways to make their lectures and publications more impactful.
Episodes of The Allusionist are often recorded by guest speakers who are experts in specific fields related to language. The podcast covers a wide range of topics including the stigma surrounding specific words like aspergers, gender pronouns, numbers as words, use of casual language to describe mental health conditions (think crazy, nuts, wacko), and more.
New episodes are posted every few weeks but not on a specific schedule, and episodes are between 20 and 40 minutes in length.
- Number of episodes: 150+
- Popular episode: Ladybird Ladybug
Academic Minute is a different kind of podcast than any of the other ones mentioned. Created by Mount Holyoke College president Lynn Pasquerella and Albany radio’s WAMC president Alan Chartock, it brings in a different professor every day who briefly discusses various topics ranging from gender bias in academic institutions to adolescent sleep patterns to relationship stress to African parasites. The Academic Minute website provides the opportunity for academics to apply to join the podcast as a guest speaker, which is a great way for any researcher to get comfortable with a new way of sharing their research.
The first episode was launched on January 2, 2011 and each installment is under 5 minutes in length.
- Number of episodes: Thousands
- Popular episode: The Key Faculty Role in Student Success
If you’re one of the many scientists or researchers that is frustrated with the current flow of misinformation and ignorance of science around the world, this podcast is for you. Its thoughtful, interesting episodes cover a range of topics from the impact of Covid on cognitive function, to dog personalities, to the possibility of sustainable jet fuel, and unpack the context behind many wide-spread-yet-debunked theories like the earth is flat, vaccines cause autism, and more.
According to the publication website, ‘The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe (SGU) is dedicated to promoting critical thinking and science literacy through insightful content and resources including an award-winning podcast.’ The team behind SGU also hosts live events and publishes books and videos examining their most prominent topics. Users can click on any episode on the website to view a list of topics being discussed. Each of the topics on the list is hyperlinked to a scientific article examining that particular issue.
The first episode was posted on May 4, 2005 and new episodes are posted weekly.
- Number of episodes: 800+
- Popular episode: #852 – a discussion of whether viruses are alive
The Feminist Survival Project 2020 is a thought-provoking series of discussions looking at the world through a feminist lens, examining the work that needs to be done to move closer to true gender equality in the home, the workplace, and society in general.
The hosts, twin sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski (also authors of the book Burnout) advertise their podcast as being created “for feminists who feel overwhelmed and exhausted by everything we need to get done in 2020, and worry that we’re not doing enough.” Emily and Amelia are both academics, and use their experiences navigating their studies, their job searches, and their experiences in the workplace as seeds for each of the interesting, thought-provoking pieces of discourse released through the podcast episode.
The podcast was launched in October, 2019 and new episodes are posted weekly. The episodes vary in length, some being under 20 minutes while others are over an hour.
- Number of episodes: 60+
- Popular episode: Separate the Stress From the Stressor
People gravitate towards podcasts for a variety of reasons, and with millions of podcasts available on tens of thousands of topics, it’s no wonder why they have emerged as one of the most popular methods of information sharing for this generation.
With all of these topics to choose from, compiling a list of my favorite academic podcasts was a challenge. Out of all the ones listed above, my favorite is probably The Allusionist, because I’ve always been fascinated with the way that language forms our worldviews, and how our specific choice of words can alter a situation both positively and negatively. If I had to choose a second favorite, it would be More or Less, because recent global events have changed the way I view quantitative data reported by government, media and special interest groups. If I had to choose a third… well… you get it. These are all great podcasts with differing, interesting perspectives offering alternative ways to see the world.
I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I’ve enjoyed reviewing them.
Do you have a favorite academic podcast that we’ve missed? If so, let us know!