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To (Science) Blog or Not to (Science) Blog

Look out technical science writing, there’s an alternative voice in town. In the past decade, bloggers have taken to their keyboards and changed the voice of the internet. With their relaxed writing styles and ability to impart wisdom in a few short paragraphs, most of the online population consumes science blogs.

Although scientists are often considered slow in adopting popular trends, science blogs are now a popular outlet for science communication. Some blogs, like Bitesize Bio, impart help and knowledge to researchers. Alternatively, many companies maintain science blogs to highlight their products and provide useful information regarding their services. Individual scientists also use personal blogs to discuss their own science as well as scientific trends.

If you are thinking about starting your own blog, here are a few things to consider, and some resources to consult if you decide to join the blogging ranks.

Advantages to Writing your Own Blog

First, blogging is fun and has several benefits.

Creative vs Formal Writing

Blogs give you an outlet for more creative writing. Want to drop the formalities of manuscript writing and try on a new voice? A blog is an excellent way to make that happen. You can style your blog any way you wish and create your own online persona.

You are in Control

With a blog, you are the writer, editor and publisher. You decide the content, the wording, structure, and publication schedule. A blog is ideal for those who crave “ultimate power”.

Promotion

Many scientists are learning to self-promote themselves and their research. Blogging is another avenue to present your work. Link your blog releases to other social media accounts (e.g. Twitter and LinkedIn) and your research can potentially be blasted out all over the Internet. When you blog, people are more aware of your research. This helps your career and aids networking. Additionally, blogging can be a step towards becoming a science writer.

Communication

Do your friends and family wonder what it is that you actually do? Your blog can tell them! Blogs readily lend themselves to explaining research in broadly understandable terms. Further, linking out to other research, articles and definitions can make research easier to understand.

Improve Your Writing

Writing a blog improves your writing. Although not writing in the formal style required for manuscripts and grants, you are writing. You are putting pen to paper, er, fingers to keyboard, and getting your ideas into the written form. You learn different ways to express your ideas, try out different styles, and learn what does and does not work.

Disadvantages to Writing Your Own Blog

Are you ready to start blogging? Make sure you are also aware of some of the disadvantages.

Your Boss/Lab Mates May Not Like It

If you intend to write directly about your ongoing research, then remember that your PI might want control of what you say. He/she may not want you to talk about new findings, lab techniques, or politics. In fact, your PI may not want you to write about the lab at all; likewise for your lab mates.

What Happens on the Internet Stays on the Internet

Do you know where many potential employers now turn to screen job candidates? The internet. Your future employer can see everything you put out there. They may not like what you have written on your blog, particularly if you tend to gripe about your job or bosses. Political rants can also affect your standings as a job candidate. If you blog, remember that everything you write is a reflection of yourself. This can be positive or negative. If you wouldn’t talk about it with your current/future employer, parents, or friends, don’t write about it.

Unwanted Attention

When you write a blog, you open yourself up to the world. People that wouldn’t speak to you in real life feel comfortable attacking you across the Internet. Internet trolls abound and their voices are harsh, vicious, and even abusive. Be particularly mindful of this fact if you write about sensitive subjects, such as animal research. Though it doesn’t prevent trolling, you can write a blog under a pseudonym to avoid exposing your identity.

You Are in Control

With great power comes great responsibility. You are in charge of everything published on your blog. This means that you are responsible for all of the content. If something is incorrect on your site, then it is your fault.

Starting a scientific blog can be fun, but it also has some downsides. I hope this article has helped you answer the question: To blog or not to blog.

Further Reading

Here are some science blogging resources to look in to if you want to explore communicating science and blogging further:

Science Blogging: The Essential Guide and resources page (A book by professional science writers about science blogging).

The Science Communication Breakdown (a blog by Matt Shipman, a public information officer)

From the lab bench (a blog on communicating science by Paige Jarreau)

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