John Michael Sides ’96

Publish or perish, warns the dictum in academia. John Sides ’96, associate professor of political science at George Washington University, publishes prolifically. But rather than wait for a peer-reviewed journal to pore over a manuscript and put it in print, John posts findings at least once a month in his blog, The Monkey Cage.

Four years into his blogging career, The Week magazine named him 2011 Blogger of the Year. Time cited among its 2012 Best Blogs. The year after, The Washington Post picked up The Monkey Cage as a regular feature.

Not bad for an academic blog that publicizes political science research with statistical rigor salted with humor.

John is one of five co-founders of The Monkey Cage. All are political scientists who value having their ideas and research immediately inform public debate more than adding peer-review annotations to their CVs. The Monkey Cage averages 2 million views a month.

John has blogged about current, controversial topics: the impact of mandatory voting, the consequences of electing more women to Congress, the negative correlation between IQ and hotness. An expert in voter behavior, he has written dozens of articles for refereed journals, scholarly publications, newspapers and online venues, such as Salon, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. He has co-authored two books: Campaigns and Elections: Rules, Reality, Strategy, Choice in 2011 and The Gamble in 2014.

John, who was awarded tenure in 2011, inspires his students to think broadly about public engagement and being change agents in their fields. His teaching awards include the Bender Teaching Award from George Washington in 2010 and Professor of the Year by Pi Kappa Alpha in 2008. An engaging speaker, he has been invited to present at academic and nonacademic conferences. He has nearly 25,000 Twitter followers and has tweeted nearly 13,000 times.

John came to UNC from his hometown of Winston-Salem. A Morehead Scholar, he was initiated into the Order of the Golden Fleece and elected to Phi Beta Kappa, then went on to the University of California-Berkeley, earning his doctorate in 2003. He taught government at the University of Texas-Austin, then joined the George Washington faculty in 2005.

But it was at Carolina that he learned how to be an academic political scientist —designing studies, writing hypotheses, gathering and analyzing data. He wrote for the student-run magazine The Catalyst, his first chance to express opinions publicly about politics.

John confronts the journalistic challenge of how to understand information and how to put it into context. He helps lay readers understand what’s important and what’s not. He delves into the impact of astronomical campaign donations and how campaigning influences voters and outcomes. He looks at the effect of divisive primaries on a nominee’s performance and considers how high or low voter turnout influences the success of each political party.

By pushing data-driven political science research into the public discourse, John gives substance to political opinions. By distilling difficult concepts into coherent and witty digestible bites, he makes political discussions more accessible. Just in time for the 2016 presidential election.