To blog or not to blog?
Oct 26, 2015. This blog was something that I started in the first year of my PhD, although it has evolved a lot since then. The content has changed over time, as my interest and the time I’ve been able to invest and commit to it has waxed and waned. As this blog has grown, it has attracted a lot of followers (currently over 1.1K) and often the question, how did you do it, should i do it, what are the benefits, is it worth the investment.
My answer to all of the above, is yes. Here’s to you, Christina 🙂
It was my friend Maz who planted the seed in my brain about creating a blog. She had just started her own business, and I had just started my PhD. We were having a coffee one day and chatting about how technology was changing everything. Life was moving online, people were becoming increasingly dependent on google, and so naturally, they would be googling us as well. What would they want to know? What would we want them to see? I started to think about this more and more, and decided that people would be googling me whether i wanted them to or not. So, I might as well give them something positive, informative and thought-provoking to google.
In this way, my blog has provided me with a platform to communicate and connect with other scientists in and outside of my field. It gives people a sense of who i am – this is what people really want to know when they type you into google. Not just what’s on your CV, but how do you present yourself, what are your interests, are you someone they can connect with? Having a LinkedIn profile, Twitter account or any other social media platform are also great. But a blog really gives you something extra. It is a unique expression of yourself, a more personal way to share your thoughts, feelings and your ideas.
One of the things I love most about my blog is that i get to write in a style that is free and sometimes unstructured. It is literally just a flow of words, whether they make exact logical sense or not. I feel that this is something important, because as a scientist, everything we write is scrutinized three, four, ten times, before it is released. My blog allows me to write in a relaxed way, it doesn’t have to be perfect every time. I might proof read it, I might not, it really doesn’t matter.
My blog let’s me voice my personal opinions and stands on important issues. It allows me to communicate what i am feeling, connect with others who might be feeing the same and its a way that i can ask for help or provide help to others. It also taught me how to communicate science to the public. In the beginning, I actually thought of this blog as a portfolio of my stories which i was practicing and collecting for in case i didn’t get a postdoc – then I would have a fallback as a science writer (so far, I get to do both, which is super cool).
In the beginning i was so nervous about blogging. About putting myself out there and potentially making a fool of myself. I used to be embarrassed when people i knew came across this blog. The first time i shared a post publicly on Facebook i nearly fainted. When my PhD supervisor found it, I sat at my desk with a red face and chest for about half an hour hyperventilating (no joke, was so mortified). But now, after years of encouragement and practice, this blog has become something that I’m really proud of.
As a young scientist, starting a blog is a real kickstarter. It improves and hones so many of your skills: research, writing, designing, communicating, releasing your inner creative tiger and having lots of fun 🙂 A blog really helps you promote yourself and what you are doing. It gets your name out there and it helps you become known, which is something that is really hard to do until you have quite a number of publications or have travelled to a lot of conferences and met a lot of people.
Quantitatively, my blog has been the origin of an Editorial article I had published in Disease, Models and Mechanisms (DMM) while I was still a PhD student. This then lead me to be invited to write an article for The Conversation. More recently, a researcher who came across my blog invited me to give a guest talk to his group at the University of Sydney; I not only got to talk about my research but i also met an entire lab group i didn’t know before. I’ve also been invited to be a roundtable speaker next month at the Australian Society for Medical Research’s Early Career Development Day, where I will be answering people’s questions about using social media to promote their career. Leaders in my field often compliment my blog
This blog has helped our local brain bank get donations. It has given me the confidence to become an STM Digest Research Ambassador. I have had so much practice writing in styles other than a scientific manuscript that these articles now take me no time at all. I believe my blog has helped me to broadcast that i really want a full-time career in science. This has for sure given me a step-up; funding agencies are investing in me, so they want some kind of reassurance that being a scientist is what i want and what i’ll stick to.
My blog gives me the chance to do something i love – researching and writing about the things that move me, talk to me, please me. My blog makes me happy, and really, that’s what matters the most.
So, if are you are asking me if you should blog, the answer is yes. (read Christina: YES YES YES). If you are unsure of how to start, I am here to help (not just Christina, but everyone who wants to give it a shot): comment below or write me: firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂