Two articles addressing blogging and science have appeared recently in Trends in Ecology and Evolution and in PLoS Biology. Bloggers John Wilkins, Shelly Batts, Nick Anthis and Tara Smith write about how blogging improves science.

One of the excellent points Wilkins makes is, "Blogging is also a way to demythologize science. Unlike laws and sausages, the public should see science during its manufacture, but the lay public is generally ill-equipped to interpret what they see, and science bloggers play a crucial role here. Bloggers with a deeper knowledge of the topic, or of science in general, can place studies in a context of prior work, thereby correcting or avoiding the myths and pigeonholes of science journalism."

I agree completely. Part of my reasoning for starting this blog was to connect with folks who would otherwise not hear about my work or work that I think is important.

Batts et al. write "Scientific discovery occurs in the lab one experiment at a time, but science itself moves forward based on a series of ongoing conversations, from a Nobel Prize winner's acceptance speech to collegial chats at a pub. When these conversations flow into the mainstream, they nurture the development of an informed public who understand the value of funding basic research and making evidence-based voting decisions. It is in the interests of scientists and academic institutions alike to bring these conversations into the public sphere....Because many science bloggers are practicing scientists or experts in their field, they can provide a unique educational bridge between academia and the public and distill important experimental findings into an accessible, interactive format."

Starting a science blog was a fairly random impulse for me. If the learning curve was steep or posting complicated, I probably would have abandoned the effort early, but Blogger's tool made posting effortless. In retrospect, blogging has been one of the best academic decisions I have ever made as it has facilitated communication with my peers, increased my visibility and opened many doors for me.

Author Nick Anthis also blogs about his paper here. In it he writes that many other bloggers have had similar experiences to mine. After informally polling bloggers, Anthis and his coauthors found that,

"Across the blogosphere, scientists had started new collaborations, enhanced their scientific work, advanced their careers, been able to communicate science as never before, and had been offered a whole array of new and unique experiences and opportunities in part or in full due to their blogs. In fact, the stories we heard were so compelling that instead of just communicating them we asked ourselves another question: why has this phenomenon gone so underreported and unappreciated within academic circles? And, more pointedly, how can we most effectively communicate this potential to an academic audience--in hopes of catalyzing even more of these wonderful successes?"

I think the scientific community is beginning to recognize the benefits of blogging. Every time I log on, there are more and more science blogs entering the blogosphere. Folks that don't blog definitely seem to read them. As with any new technology, it takes some time to get used to the idea. It may be that, in the future, blogs will be as much as part of the scientific discourse as scientific journals. Remember back in 1994, hardly any labs had a web page, but now its seems obligatory. Maybe research blogs will be ubitquitous in 2018.

Wilkins' article ends by saying, "The academic research and teaching communities for science and related fields need to see blogging as more than a casual hobby, as core outreach for their science. It is an effective way for scientists to counter the misunderstandings, deliberate and otherwise, of popular culture. Not only graduate students, but more tenured professionals, need to engage in this to ensure that their science, and the science of others, is in the public eye."

I would love it if my colleagues all had active blogs, as I could see what they are up to, what issues they are struggling with and what they are thinking about at any given time.