Why scientists should blog is not a new topic to Science 2.0.   In a way, I think we pioneered science blogging(1) because, prior to us, the only science bloggers with any real audience mostly wrote about politics and religion and last year I chaired a panel on science outreach with two columnists here and Mike Eisen, co-founder of PLoS, and Eugenie Scott, founder of the National Center for Science Education and blogging was a key topic on how scientists should increase engagement.

But 2010 is much different even than 2009 - the science culture caught up to us and new science blogging networks have popped up all over the place.   Outreach has gone mainstream.

Peter Janiszewski notes his own recent experience in a new post on the topic - he discusses the difference between a paper he wrote that had no citations showing in Google scholar but that really resonated with the broad audience.    It's not a surprise that something more casual would take off with people while other researchers barely notice a technical work.   I've had people write me here asking why something they felt like they threw together got 50-100,000 readers or more but something they crafted for weeks got only 5,000 or whatever.    There is no easy answer.

Some of it is social media success, which I term a temporary audience.   P.M. got linked to from Boing Boing and that likely added some traffic but it's difficult to know how many that added to his recurring reader base.   We've had too many articles to count on Slashdot or Reddit or Digg but that is not to say they bookmarked the author and came back again.   What they did do was increase the presence in search and that will lead to more readers in the future so a social media approach can be successful, just not necessarily satisfactory for serious science writers.

What has been shown to work is meaning well, writing things that interest you, and persistence.   In P.M.'s case he also then got some mass media attention and that got recognition for work that had been published with no real interest - a clear win, but not a recipe since you can't predict when you will hit on social media and have a reporter call.    But over time, it is certain to happen and, when it does, the second-order effect is that it will draw attention to your research.

For most scientists, the direct audience is a lot of risk and little reward but that will change over time.  In a way, science blogging is creating its market, which is why when everyone else was predicting the collapse of blogging at the beginning of the Scienceblogs Pepsigate issue, I instead predicted the market would grow substantially.

A personal blog can be a lonely place, of course, so joining Science 2.0 or PLoS or Wired or Scienceblogs or Nature Networks or (insert your network here) might make sense also, but without a doubt going on your own or joining a community is going to pay off, as long as you know what to expect and what to avoid.


(1) I know, I know, we actually do very little blogging but we're not a media company so it isn't just features, and it isn't journalism - this is why it had to be its own thing, Science 2.0.