Why you, young scientist, should have a web presence

Three good reasons why you should be writing something, somewhere on the Web:

  1. Egalitarianism
  2. I hadn’t thought much about this aspect until a conversation with Roland at ISMB. Put simply, the Web democratises the science career ladder. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Honours student or a tenured professor; if you have good ideas and can articulate them, you can bring them to the attention of others and build a community around them. Previously, you would have had to wait until the stage of your career where you’re invited to give keynote addresses – and who has the time for that, these days?

  3. Connecting with the right people
  4. Ideally, we would all work in dynamic, stimulating environments, surrounded by talented, like-minded individuals keen to bounce ideas off each other. In practice – well, you know. No matter, because the Web allows you to find people on your wavelength, with whom you can interact. Increasingly, we’re seeing great examples of scientific collaboration established in this way. The process isn’t limited to science of course; Goth kids in small country towns find a friendly support network in just the same way.

  5. The big picture
  6. It’s all too easy in research to become obsessed with the minutiae and the day-to-day trials. It’s also easy to avoid writing until the time comes to publish a paper or apply for a grant. Writing something regularly on the Web can maintain writing skills, force you to assess critically your goals and progress and provide timely reminders about “the big picture”.

Those are my top 3 reasons: add yours in the comments (here or at FriendFeed).

17 thoughts on “Why you, young scientist, should have a web presence

  1. Bob K

    Egalitarianism…great, just what we need is more scientist with a big ego. No wonder we have trouble connecting with the public.

  2. shwu

    As someone who’s found the traditional forms of networking to be rather odious, blogging has provided a pleasantly painless way to find other interesting people and have some common ground to start with once you do eventually meet them in person. You become part of a strong, supportive (but honest) community. You could say that we are now constantly networking with relatively little effort (but making arguably stronger connections).

  3. Cris

    What about i.p.? one of the primary reasons I have played my ideas close to the chest is to prevent any particularly good ideas from being scooped.

  4. Heather Piwowar

    Great points, and I agree with all of the above.
    Another: It is being the change I want to see.

    I’m really glad to find blogs describing things that I’m thinking through, or code snippets that I can use, or archived posters that relate to my research. So, in turn, I share mine.

  5. Deepak

    Cris

    Blogging != putting your IP out there (it’s your choice). There are some thoughts and ideas I keep to myself from time to time. A blog is not a bulk dump of thoughts in your head.

    That said, sharing interesting ideas with the rest of the world is usually a good idea. You never know where the smart suggestion will come from or where you might find your next collaborator.

  6. Ricardo

    I think networking is real important. My blog provided me with opportunities that I’d NEVER come across without it.

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  9. JWS

    Idea is one thing but execution of idea is another – both have to be considered when it comes to thinking about a possible inventive behind blogging – please refer to my recent post on Pangeables if you are interested in discussing more about this.

  10. Ryan

    I am not sure about point 1. Blogging is far from equivalent to keynote lectures. These are based on the person being invited, based on their excellent reputation and previous research – they are generally recognised as a leader in the field.

    A blog, on the other hand, is very different – anyone can write anything, regardless of their background or experience. That can be a good or bad thing really, but self-publishing online – blogs, wikis, etc, can be used for discussing an idea very.

  11. nsaunders Post author

    Well, I’m not saying that blog post = keynote lecture, nor that all blog posts are high quality. My point is that there was a time (before the web – remember that? Probably not) when there were constraints on the audience that you could reach, imposed by a notional career hierarchy. Not any more and personally, I believe that to be a very good thing.

  12. dkoboldt

    Obviously I’m a proponent of scientific blogging. I’ve found that it has two other benefits:

    1.) Providing an opportunity to share interesting-yet-unpublishable findings. As a bio-informatician I’m constantly performing quick analyses here and there to satisfy my curiosity. Often I’ll find something cool, but it’s something I don’t wish to / don’t have time to pursue further. A blog is a good place to tell those stories.

    2.) Get your name out there. The scientific blogosphere is still a rather new entity, but some of us have already gained stature/recognition in the scientific community by blogging. Just make sure that GT has your RSS feed! Hopefully journal editors are watching things as well – the blogosphere might be a good place to find peer reviewers.

    ~Dan Koboldt, MassGenomics
    http://www.massgenomics.org

  13. Martin Metzmacher

    I think another important point is that scientific blogging might actually help to get most out of positivism. Especially in the Social Science there is a tendency to NOT publish (unsuccessful) replications and zero-effect studies.

    Scientific blogging might be a chance to break that biased circle and produce the unbiased information we as scientists should rely on.

    Popper would have loved that…

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