Scientific Blogging - Ignore It and Be Ignored?

April 28, 2009

I continue to be amazed by the number of people I've come into contact with who read Depth-First regularly. Many express appreciation for what I'm doing followed quickly by various reasons why they themselves can't possibly do it. Not just once or twice, mind you, but almost every time.

This is amusing to put it mildly. Scientists with the best training the world has to offer are repeatedly telling me that an approach they've never tried before can't work!

Jean-Claude Bradley notes a shift in the discussion about blogging and scientists. A few years ago, the concern was whether or not blogging could hurt your scientific career. Today, the discussion revolves around whether or not scientific blogging is a waste of time.

These questions may be important right now, but for any scientist with some life left in their career, the most important question is: What will the discussion of blogging and science look like ten years from now?

Only time will tell. But for what it's worth, here are some random observations I've made about blogging and science (and some more here):

  • Over half the sales my scientific software company has made have been a direct or indirect result of writing I've published on Depth-First.
  • LinkedIn and mailing lists are highly inefficient compared to maintaining a well-written, current, and focussed scientific blog. LinkedIn forums sit behind a login, which hinders discussions like this one from taking place, being found later, and credited to you. Mailing lists are even worse - not only do they rank low in search results, but they're hard on the eyes, tend to be of very low signal-to-noise ratio, and you automatically shut out 99% of your potential audience, who don't subscribe (or bother to read) the particular list you're posting to.
  • Two words: substructure search. Scientists are increasingly relying on Google, not SciFinder, to quickly find information. Without a blog, you're at a severe disadvantage with Google. That's such an important point, I'll say it again: You know that tool called Google that many of your colleagues are using to find scientific information - it will only locate your material easily if you maintain a blog.

Recessions are a time when many scientists' thoughts turn to the subject of how they're going to find another job. It's a time when words like "networking" get discussed in solemn tones by those with a knowing air about them.

Think of blogging as a way to radically expand the reach of your professional network. Now, how can you still afford to sit on the sidelines?