People ask for the benefits of writing a science blog before deciding if it makes sense to write one. Some say a science blog gives you exposure. Others would like to hear that they will write more publications thanks to their blog. If now I look back, I can see a clear benefit of running my own science blog: it helped me to not to give up my PhD.
People Want to See the Benefits
Scientists have mixed feelings about running a science blog. Senior researchers and group leaders have too many things in their plates. Getting grants, publishing, presenting at conferences, supervising young scientists, it is a busy life. This is their main augment for not writing a science blog.
In any case, they are not digital natives and technology is a barrier for them. They feel they are going to need time to learn how to operate a science blog and decide to argument that they are busy. In fact, it is very easy to create a science blog.
Young scientists are more technologically savvy, but also busy. They are trapped in the scientific rat race: publish a lot in high impact factor journals, cross your fingers and pray for tenure track.
The consequence is that the young fellas are capable of running a science blog, but again are too busy. The rat race doesn’t reward (yet) scientists that share their knowledge via a blog. (we’ll talk about this in future posts)
The Tough Times of a PhD
During my PhD I was busy as well. Getting used to a new field of research, new colleagues, running some never ending research projects, it all took time. I spent a lot of energy making sense of all what was going on.
I spent every day trying to keep my head above the shit.
At that point I could have just let it go, sink and give up. I would have been a quitter, but at least I wouldn’t have wasted the last two years of an unfinishable PhD.
Instead, I decided to fight. And there was one action that made all the difference: I opened up to others.
- I shared my worries with more experienced colleagues. They gave me a much needed insight: they had gone through similar difficulties, I was not the only one. And also, there comes a day when you are not in the Valley of Shit anymore, there is hope.
- I asked for help to the coach/psychologist the university offers to scientists. She helped me out to step back and see the global picture. I also realized I could take control of my PhD and stir it in the direction I wanted.
- I started writing my own science blog. If I was going to fail or succeed, I wanted to leave some tips for future PhD students on what I had learned during the PhD.
Image via CS_McMahon
My Benefits of Writing a Science Blog
At the lowest point to my PhD I started reading blogs. It was not a new thing for me, since I had been following several bloggers for a while. This time, I was reading blogs for scientists.
There were some “must-read” science blogs that discussed general issues of the PhD life, blogs like The Thesis Whisperer, or PhD2Published. Other blogs treated specific writing and reading problems like the 3 Month Thesis or Literature Review HQ. Study Hacks helped with hacking time management techniques for academics.
What I got of these blogs was to discover that others were struggling, other grad students were also walking through the Valley of Shit and they needed help. Then it struck me.
What advice would I give to a starting PhD student?
I decided that my science blog would contain what I learnt during my PhD. What it means to be a graduate student. The do’s and don’ts. Those things I wish someone had told me earlier. Those things that you wish were written in the contract before you sign it.
I felt like I was writing for that poor little Julio at the beginning of my PhD. But in fact, I was reflecting on all I had learnt up until that moment. I was giving to myself the advice I needed.
I started putting vague ideas I had in the back of my mind into words. This exercise turned out to be vital. It helped me to see the causes of my frustration. Once I knew these causes I could act upon them.
After I wrote several posts about PhD life I started to be more calmed, I regained some hope in my PhD. I saw how the PhD game has to be played and discovered how to handle better the frustration. This kept me going in my PhD.
I don’t know if the advice I shared in my science blog helped other people. What I know is that it avoided me quitting my PhD.
What is your experience writing a science blog? Did it help you? What were the benefits? Please share your point of view in the comments below.
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