Jan
31

Departmental blogs represented by people at the Thursday afternoon Science Online watch party:

(At this point, my netbook froze up and I think I missed capturing other blogs mentioned by participants. Apologies! Feel free to comment below with your blog title & URL!)

Additional Sea Grant blogs listed on the right range from specific research/outreach topics to experiences of our graduate and undergraduate fellows, interns and scholars.

To get a sense of the broad range of blogs being written and published on the OSU WordPress platform, visit blogs.oregonstate.edu

 

Scientific American blogger Scicurious (Moderator) queries those attending the session, and they respond.

Why do you want to be blogging 10 years from now?

  • It’s my job.
  • I like the interaction with readers – gives me good ideas.
  • When I stop worrying and actually blog, it turns out really cool.
  • Nobody else is blogging about the same things
  • It gives me an opportunity to be more myself than my professional (news) writing.
  • My readers keep asking me to.
  • I get to go beyond the scientific discovery into the people behind it and their motivations
  • My blogging helps my students, colleagues and dean understand why I’m doing the things I’m doing and why they should care.
  • Symbiartic: There aren’t enough other blogs that explore the borders of art & science
  • I want to be immortal.

Moderator: External reward ( hits, praise,interaction) is great, but as a brain scientist, I can tell you that won’t work forever.

Once you’ve said the initial things you wanted to say, how do you motivate yourself to keep going?

Many in audience raise hands to “Have you experienced burnout?” Who’s gotten through it and how?

  • Just write the thing you want instead of the “tremendously amazing thing” you feel like you should write about.
  • Accept being a sporadic blogger rather than an all-the-time blogger.
  • Keep notes, and blog about what interests you, whatever that is.
  • Scientific American blog editor Bora Zivkovic: Tells people who are in burnout just to post some little thing – a YouTube video or whatever  – instead of stressing out over writer’s block.
  • Holly from Deep Sea News is a scientist first,. She sets goals(makes herself read sci literaturetto blog about it. And does timer blogging.
  • Ask kids and other bloggers “what’s some scientific phenomenon that interests you or makes you curious?” and write about that.
  • Keep a running list of ideas as they occur to you; when you hit a block, write about the next thing on the list.
  • Take a subject in the news and apply your expertise to it.
  • Have a co-blogger to share the job  with.
  • Compile the interesting things you see elsewhere on the Net (ie Twitter) and post that weekly, with links.
  • Sometimes it takes sheer force of will. And nagging by family.
  • Trysomething new (weekly “weird science”, hosting guest writers, add a twitter feed, post images without much text, etc.)
  • Use your blog system’s free poll app and post a silly but topical poll to get discussion going
  • Write about scientific discussions with your kids, friends, spouse, etc. Until it’s no fun, then stop.

How do you keep it fun?

  • Periodically write about something way off your normal topic.
  • Have a schedule. Daily, weekly, etc. – know in advance what you’re going to write about every Tuesday, Friday, etc. “When bloggers looked back over several years posts, they couldn’t tell me when they were inspired versus when the wrote because they had to.”

How do you stick to a schedule?

  • Five-minute rule: Force yourself to do something for just five minutes.
  • On the other hand: If you force yourself, you might end up with garbage.
  • Separate the process of generating ideas from process of writing. Develop (and maintain) a list of clever ideas and never throw them away. When it’s time to write, pick from the list.
  • When you’re on a roll, write lots of posts, but keep the non-timely ones in reserve, unpublished, and post them during the fallow times.
  • Politics & currrent events bloggers quote and interact with each other a lot, and that generates ideas. Science bloggers should do that, too – share something the bloggers you like have written.

Why do this at all? (Most of us don’t get paid for it)

  • Even if it’s a hobby, any hobby gets better with practice.
  • Every time you blog it makes you a better writer (and a better scientist).
  • If you’ve got something to say and you’re passionate about it, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t come out perfectly.
  • It can also make you a better scientific writer. You get used to writing, more comfortable with it and more adept at it.

How have things changed in the first dozen+ years of blogging

  • Things have become more focused. Blogs originally were a rag-bag.  Narrowing the subject helps you focus, and develops and audience.
  • Group blogs and blog networks are a big change – they collect the best bloggers and the results are more professional
  • The rise of social networks makes it more complicated – you can’t just send the same stuff  to your blog, twitter, G+, etc., you need to develop content specific to each medium.
  • Communities have sprung up, even in very narrow fields.
  • Academic bloggers say they used to blog privately so their deans wouldn’t know; now the blogs go in their tenure dossiers, which is good. But it can feel less “bloggy” – and less fun.
  • Analytics show what people are actually reading and sharing, and that can change what you write about – for good or ill.
  • “Blog suicide”  shutting down for a while – can cost your followers – but it can also be refreshing.  And you can pick it back up.
  • Science bloggers form their own communities and they’re great. Events like Science Online bring bloggers together as friends.

OSU ScienceOnline Watch PartyThings that struck us (notes on group discussion):

  • Conference is full of people whose job it is to rewrite science and translate it to the public. (Speaker does the same thing but over the phone, one on one). Why don’t we have that?
  • We do! OSU News & Research Communications – talk to them if you have a story to tell, or scientists who should be in their experts pool!
  • Streaming information into airport tv channels – clever idea for getting messages to the public

 

  • How about streaming webcams? (Talk to Raul Buriel)
  • Videographers are available via OSU Web Communications: Talk to Justin Smith
  • Researchers need to have up-to-date Websites if they want the public (including other scientists) to find them. Contact David Baker at Web Communications to find out what they can do to help bring your old, dead site up to date, or build a new one for your lab.
  • Get a YouTube account- put up short videos about your work and science. Or media Space
  • What kinds of events would make good places to talk science?
    • Festivals – not just science festivals, but art festivals, community festivals, etc. Get people used to seeing & talking to scientists in their communities.
    • Farmers markets and food fairs
  • Communicating risks: We have people who work with heavy metals, food contamination, radiation, etc. But how do you talk to people about risk without freaking them out? Suggestion: Google “communicating risk” to find a whole bunch of documents & guidelines already being used by those who communicate risk for education & government.  Steal their ideas.
  • Dealing with the media: How do you get them to get it right?
    • Hone your message to its core – what one or two things do you absolutely want people to know? Get used to talking about it in brief, without compromising accuracy. On TVnews, you maty only get one sentence. Practice with five-year-olds.
    • It’s OK to ask if you can review what journalists write about your science – just limit your critique to the science, not the writing. And be aware that some media institutions don’t allow review of anything prior to publication.
    • Statesman reporter: Giving feedback to journalists afterward is good. If they miss something, suggest followup ideas.
    • Good thing about working with news & science bloggers: If they get something wrong, they can correct it!
  • What we’d tell others at OSU about public engagement & communication based on this morning’s session & our own experience:
    • Try new stuff until you find your fit.
    • Look for new venues (don’t preach to the choir?)
    • Get outside  your own narrow field and see what others are doing
    • Find the time to make your presence felt – keep your website updated, bloh or tweet regularly, etc.
    • Major funding agencies are requiring engagement and outreach components, and that’s starting to be reflected in promotion & tenure practices.
    • Naomi Hirsh has a powerpoint telling scientis why they have to be engaged online. (Naomi, can you share it with this group?)
  • What  else should we do to stay engaged beyond our narrow fields:
    • Read science blogs & other online science journalism (See sidebar on this blog for some good ones).
    • Join and attend the OSU Social Media group (Contact Alan Calvert)
    • Visit blogs.oregonstate.edu to see what your colleagues are doing with blogs – good and bad.