A researcher opening up their work and also their daily struggles to achieve good-quality research is potentially very beneficial to them and to the wider community. I am new to blogging, but here are 5 reasons why I think it might be a good idea for researchers:
- Many researchers feel isolated.
Whether working on their PhD, or on research projects, carrying out research can be isolating. You may be the only person working on a highly specialised topic in your department or lab. You may lack support from your colleagues or institution. But someone else out there is probably facing the same dilemmas as you. Opening up to the wider community means you can share your own experiences and get advice from others. You might find out about how research is organised in another part of the world that changes your way of thinking, or makes you realise how lucky you are.
- We are an obsessive bunch.
Researchers can be passionate about their field and keen to move science forward, but we find it hard to leave our work at the office or lab. Let’s face it, we tend to become engrossed in our work, and maybe even obsessed by it. The American poet Robert Frost once said: “To be a poet is a condition, not a profession”. I think it’s the same for researchers: being a researcher is a condition. How to handle this tendency for obsession? How do we balance our lives, have a family, hobbies? By writing about the researcher condition, we can share our obsessions and see how others manage their lives and work.
- It’s a competitive world.
Whether you work in a well-renowned university, or a little known organisation, research is competitive. We compete with our colleagues for money, publications & jobs. Such a competitive environment can be destructive. I am a strong believer in research progressing best through altruism. One way of helping our colleagues and friends is through sharing experiences and giving tips on how to navigate & survive the competitive world of research. I certainly need to hear more positive stories of researchers making it with the help of others.
- Public research should be available to the public.
The open-access movement in public research has taken huge leaps forward in the last few years. Many large datasets are openly available to researchers, and many funding bodies now require researchers to publish their findings in open-access journals. Whatever our different experiences of open-access might be, most researchers want people to know about their work. This is especially true if you feel that your research can contribute, even the tiniest bit, to improving society. A blog allows us to discuss our work openly and honestly with anybody without having to use the turgid language of academia, and without our results being hijacked and transformed by the media.
- We’re in control!
Or are we? I might be completely wrong about this, but when you write a blog, you do it on your own terms. It can be as formal or as informal as you want. You don’t have a required word count or maximum number of tables allowed. You can say what you want, and what you really mean. It is a genuinely pleasurable part of my job to read about other people’s work and experiences. Hopefully it will continue to be fun to write and edit a blog too. And if it isn’t, well, I guess I can just stop!
How to learn by blogging about science (Nature blogs)