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.

Specialist Q&A

Conferees were divided into four groups to offer innovative examples of how they’re doing outreach & engagement:

Flacks & journalists (PIO model)

How do you balance telling a good story versus critical scientific thinking?

  • Science stories should be written by people with science background. “Newspapers and other organizations should be looking for scientists and turning them into good journalsts, not the other way around.”
  • How do you get good science to lawmakers?
    • Connect it to the money issues in their districts
  • I’m a scientist and have a cool project I want the public to know about it. How do I do it?
    • Practice, practice, practice – get training by your PIOs.
    • Make sure you have an up-to-date Web page about your current research and that it’s Google-friendly so people – including reporters – can find you.

Blogging & social media

  • Blogging: Opinion vs just the facts
    • Opinion & fun for the stuff you really know about
      • Do your research when you’re reporting on things outside your field and or scientifically controversial
      • Chad Orzel  (Uncertain Principles at scienceblogs.com): “If I’m going to write about anything it’s going to be my opinion because that’s the value I bring to the subject”
      • Others sasuggest y they do the research – comprehensive literature suggest that when writing outside your field, read the literature,understand the topic and write an “explainer.”
    • How do you get someone who’s not a blogger to try blogging?
      • For guest blogs, grab them at conferences or when they’re in the news.
      • Mentor them. Show them it’s easy.
    • If you’re trying to persuade them, don’t use the word “blog.” Just tell them it’s writing articles online.

Education-based outreach

  • Foussed programs to reach small groups (ie, 30 of the best science students come to a workshop/camp. (Could you scale that kind of thing up to reach more people or keep them engaged via additional online content?)
    • Attend teacher meetings & conferences and distribute flyers about your Website/blog/online materials
    • Work with the experts to develop teacher training materials
    • Give kits to teachers
    • Tie content to STEM standards & requirements
  • How much do you focus on getting kids to become scientists versus general science literacy/interest/enjoyment?
    • One program (Stemcell Talks) takes basic presentations in the school & allows interested  students to apply for a full-day symposium where they can engage directly with scientists
    • Online courses that keep kids excited
    • Go into schools and teach little kids the cool stuff about science to get them excited

Informal communication – directly to people

  • How do you reach beyond the already interested?
    • Collaborative projects
    • “Guerilla Science” take it to the streets, to music festivals, to places you wouldn’t expect to learn about science
    • (See Saturday conference session: Outreach in Unusual Places) Go to science fiction conventions and serve on ask-a-scientist-anything panels

(After we got the sound problems fixed)

Brainstorming ways of doing outreach:

  • Livestreaming science activities to the public (dissections, experiments, etc.)
  • Crowd-funding= more engagement + funding; a way to demonstrate an income stream to larger funders. (Different universities respond differently. See scifundchallenge.org for information)
  • Science+art: scientists engage with art students, resulting in a show that engages the public in science.
  • After-school programs for kids already interested in science, including visiting scientists, hands-on projects and student fellowships to do semi-independent projects.
  • Enlisting scientists to play major roles on websites & blogs – including training them& setting things up for them
  • Build interactive features – live chats, etc. – into your online science communication. Interaction & feedback builds communities, and that builds public engagement in science.
  • Share data with the public – make it public and ask them to help with analysis, ask questions, sugest new directions for research.
  • A well-done blog with scientists on board (as bloggers or advisors) can serve as a resource for public and the media.
  • Astrophysicist/author invites scifi writers in for workshops to learn real science they can include in their writing. That leverages a wider audience – and also gets b etter informagtion to the fiction-reading public.
  • Use online platforms to train people about data and get them using it.
  • SciencePubs, evenings in the lab and other public events.
  • Art & science camps for kids
  • Minoritypostdoc.org – aggregates professional societies for scientists of color, LGBT, etc. Good resource
  • University news bureaus are starting to enlist scientists to write blog posts as well as serving as news releasae fodder
  • PHD Comics & PHDTV – grad student humor