In this guest post, Gracielle Higino – a Brazilian ecologist and science communicator – goes through the most important reasons why blogging can be a great asset for your research output’s visibility.
If you are a scientist, you probably have to deal with a lot of writing. You need to write projects, grant proposals, reports, your dissertation/thesis and your papers. Your writing has to be good, otherwise you do not get much from your work. How can more writing be a good idea? Tons of papers are published every year, and you have to find a way to put yours under a spotlight or it probably won’t be cited or even read. One way to do this is to write a good paper, so people will enjoy reading it. Another way to do it is to write a good paper and tell people how good it is. This is when science communication comes into play.
An easy and simple way to engage in science communication is to write about science. It’s simple, quick and (may be) free. When you write about science for an audience other than your peers, you exercise your creative writing, because you often need to think of analogies and connections to illustrate abstract concepts. For example, you can write about deep time inviting the readers to think about it as fractions of their arms, or cite pop culture superheroes to write about ecological niche or species’ dispersal: something you would probably not write in a research paper. Furthermore, writing enhances your learning process and helps you identify shortfalls in your knowledge. This is the basis of what is known as the “Feynman Learning Technique”: you write down a concept as simply as you can, identify what you do not understand very well, study a little more and write down again.
Writing about your research can be very good for your career. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, it gives you visibility and credibility. Think about it this way: who are you for Google? What are the results on the first page when you search for your name? Would you proudly put it in your CV? When you write about things you do in different media, your work becomes findable. If a journalist needs to write about something you understand, he/she can find your writings and consider you an expert. Putting your work out there builds your brand.
Particularly, writing outreach pieces about your papers, especially when they are recently published, can improve the impact of it. Because a blog post brings out your paper from an infinite sea of science research, more people will see it even if they are not looking for a paper on the particular subject of your work. Therefore, the possibilities of getting feedback, network and citation increases. Also, people love to interact! Let them talk about your paper, retweet it, like it, and they will remember it. Although an audience is important to the success of your blog post, if you don’t know where people are, you can associate with people that know it and ask them to share your post. A good solution is to send your post to an established blog or website (like this one).
Additionally, in times of open science, we have to think about how open our research really is. Your paper may be open access, but will the knowledge in it be accessible to everyone? How can your paper make a difference in society? Putting your research in popular media means that you are giving the chance to everyone to know it and take something from it.
To set up a blog post about your paper will certainly be a pleasure if you are proud of your job. You will be able to tell stories that could not be part of the original paper, publish colorful versions of your graphics, give the paper all the stardom you know it deserves. Don’t let your work sink in the sea of science: tell people how great your paper is!
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Ecologist and science communicator
Gracielle is a Brazilian ecologist and science communicator. Because scientific literacy in Brazil is a huge problem, to make science understandable in clear Portuguese has become her mission since a very young age. As an ecologist, she works with mathematical models to understand why there are so many species in certain parts of the Globe, and to map and detect knowledge gaps about biodiversity. She currently writes for Hipótese Nula.