What’s the point of a blog? What benefit will it bring to my career? Won’t I just be wasting my time?
Being more open about your research is all the rage at the moment, and not just for the reasons that are being talked about: public engagement, open access etc. There are some other, more selfish reasons why you might want to start a blog:
Find those students – if you have a blog about a specific research subject, students within that field will come and read about your work as part of their research. Your work will become a resource to those learning about it. Then, the more engaging your blog is, the more interested your readers will be. They might even be so interested that they want to come and work in your lab.
Network – If you can’t speak to people directly, you can speak to them via a blog. Engage with them over comments and social media. Ask people questions and build some interaction.
New and exciting collaborations – the increased networking and attracting students to your lab could ultimately pique the interest of others outside your field. They might also see the fantastic work you are doing, and may like to collaborate.
Private sector & government funding – if the private sectors and governments start seeing how much great work you are doing (both with newly recruited students and exciting inter-disciplinary collaborations!) they might become interested too. And hey presto, all your new projects may get a fresh batch of money coming their way.
Getting to the right people – if you work in the medical sciences, wouldn’t it be interesting if your audience wasn’t just those who read your peer-reviewed articles in journals? What if someone who has the particular disease that you are researching comes across your blog? You are then speaking to those who are directly affected by your research.
Get your name out there – it’s all about who you know, especially when you are the “who” that people talk about! If you can build a reputation as an expert in a field and outside of that field, you may draw in the attention of the press and reach an even larger audience.
It can be satisfying – the above list might all sound like hard work, but it can be a lot of fun and satisfying!
With all these selfish benefits, it’s worth being aware of how to make the most them:
You don’t always need to write an essay – keeping things short, sweet and to the point is sometimes more effective than a 1000 word editorial piece.
Engage with your audience – if people as a question it is worth trying to answer it, whether on Twitter, Facebook or even in the comments. People are reading your work because they are interested and want to know more. People want to know that you are listening to them. You wouldn’t ignore questions at a conference talk because it would be rude, so why ignore them on Twitter or on your blog?
Keep any multimedia in the top 1/3 of the post – any form of multimedia immediately attracts attention, so keep it at the top of a post. If it starts falling below the immediate eye-line and down towards the bottom, some people might not read that far and miss it entirely.
Talk about other things – there is more to research than just the science. Readers like to build a relationship with the bloggers, and human factors are often just as interesting as the science. Readers don’t need to know your full daily time table, but if something dramatic is happening that is people related, why not share? For example – you just got some new funding (because all the governments are interested in your new recruits and collaborations), let people know how exciting that is for you.
Show your enthusiasm – if people can’t see that you are excited about your work, then you’ll be hard pressed to find an audience.