The Thoughtful Animal

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Welcome to part 3 of the Science Blogging 101 series. You can find part 1 here, in which I discussed my own experiences with blogging, and part 2 here, which I discussed some of the big questions regarding audience, purpose, and so forth.

How do you balance blogging with the rest of your work? Do you see it as an extension or part of what you already do in keeping up with the literature or do you just enjoy blogging?

Well, I certainly enjoy blogging, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. That said, blogging about research is a fantastic way to keep up on the literature. I read through (or, at least, skim through) a lot more papers now every week than I did before I started blogging. And by reading other blogs, I can keep myself up-to-date on what is going on in entirely separate areas of science, as well as other sub-disciplines in psychology and neuroscience. Not only is this good because I like to know a lot of things, but it helps me draw connections between my own sub-sub-field and other areas of research. Because I think that education and outreach are important components of academic research, and because blogging is education and outreach, I think its reasonable to spend some time during the so-called “work day” on blogging-related projects. I try to keep that sort of time spent to a relative minimum, and it certainly doesn’t take precedence over teaching or research, but if I have an hour between meetings, for example,, I can spend it blogging instead of playing on facebook.

What benefits are there to blogging if you don’t think you will get much (or any) media attention in the future?

Coverage in mainstream media is a really bad reason to want to blog. (Though, of course, its fantastic when it happens!) There are lots of good reasons to blog. See part 2.


As a graduate student, have you found that there are any ‘downsides’ to having a fairly prominent internet presence? Has this impacted your professional reputation in any sort of a negative way, and/or do you think it has (or will) impact your publication record or future job search?

Well, I certainly hope not. Having not yet been on the job market, I can’t really say. If I may speculate, I do think that more and more people who are going to be looking for academic jobs will be bloggers, and fewer and fewer of them will be pseudonymous. Time will tell, I suppose. Blogging and blogging-related activities will never replace the important things, like journal articles, when it comes to competing for a job. All things being equal, could blogging be some icing on the job application cake? Perhaps. Depending on who is on the search committee, I suppose. Hoping it will help you get an academic job is a really bad reason to want to blog. Maybe some others who’ve been on the job market recently, or are on it now, and blog, would like to comment on this? Or others who have served on search committees?

Have you ever been asked to write for mainstream media as a result of your experience in science blogging?

While I have written for mainstream media, I have not been asked to do so. One exception might be the science blogging festival that The Guardian ran in September, though that was online and not in print, so its up to you whether you want to consider that “mainstream media.” I was asked to participate in that. Every other piece I’ve written and published has been because I’ve pitched it to an editor.

When you go to academic conferences or meetings, do people mention your blog? If so, what is the nature of your interactions with your peers? Do they usually have positive or negative things to say?

I’ve only been to one academic conference (not including Science Online) since I moved to Scienceblogs – the APS conference last May. And I got recognized there because of my blog, which was a bit of a strange experience but also fun. In general, people have only had good things to say. As I’ve said before, my peers have been very supportive. In fact, I recently blogged a PLoS ONE paper written by another graduate student at my institution. She sent her friends and family over to my blog to read my coverage of her paper, rather than to the paper itself or to any of the mainstream coverage of the paper. That’s the best sort of compliment I could have received.

How often do you blog about your own research?

I won’t blog about my own research until after its been published.

Have you ever written what you thought was a great, engaging introduction to some topic, only to discover that you got some details wrong?

Sure. Who hasn’t? One of the nice things about blogs is that you can easily fix mistakes, and you can do so in a transparent way.

Does the fact that you are a graduate student, still establishing yourself in the field, impact how strongly you express criticism of research? How do you balance expressing your true thoughts about research without alienating yourself from other researchers in your field?

If I’m going to be critical of something, I try to make it about an idea or an interpretation or a methodology, and never about a person. If I’m going to be critical, I try to do it in as respectful a way as possible. Mostly, though, I blog about things that I find cool or interesting, rather than things that have some sort of major weakness, so I think my criticisms tend to be more minor than they might otherwise be.

Image: Flickr/the8rgrl

Comments

  1. #1 Zoonotica
    March 15, 2011

    Just wanted to say how much I’ve appreciated all 3 posts in this series.

    Post 1 was actually what gave me the confidence to start blogging myself.

    As someone 6 months into their PhD I’m reassured to hear you manage to fit blogging into the rest of your workload – hopefully I will be able to too. (And as young as my blog is, I agree with your comment about reading more – I am definitely reading more papers over a much wider area.)

    So yeah – thank you!

  2. #2 Yoder
    March 15, 2011

    Great summary of the issues; my own experience has been pretty much the same. I’d add, though, regarding your final point:

    “If I’m going to be critical of something, I try to make it about an idea or an interpretation or a methodology, and never about a person. If I’m going to be critical, I try to do it in as respectful a way as possible.”

    This should really apply no matter where you are in your career.

  3. #3 Constant Writer
    March 15, 2011

    Blogging consistently can be challenging when you’re going to grad school, but getting into the habit of writing regularly and feeling like you have to write something for you audience makes a difference. Interesting perspective about writing about what you do in grad school, topics you’re interested in. I don’t think anyone would keep reading if I blogged about what I do at grad school.

  4. #4 Jason Goldman
    March 15, 2011

    @1: Wow, what a compliment! And excellent work on the blog – already had a post selected by a Research Blogging editor! Keep it up!

    And Jeremy (@2): Yes, of course, everyone should always treat everyone with respect.

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