This post is partly inspired by a recent tweet that I saw by a professor (I can't find the tweet, but I think that it was either Meghan Duffy or Kate Clancy) that their main contribution to science might be via their science blogging, rather than their peer-reviewed publications. I found this interesting and intriguing, because I have always viewed blogs to be part of the academic landscape, and also, because it came soon after I was invited to write a Washington Post op-ed. This invitation was the direct result of my many blog posts about how to organize Ada Lovelace Day events, including Women in STEM Wikipedia editathons, and my course assignments in which students learn how to edit Wikipedia.
I was asked to write about the context surrounding why Waterloo University Professor, Donna Strickland, didn't have a Wikipedia page at the time that she was announced as a Nobel Laureate in Physics in October 2018. The large amount of time that it took to co-write this op-ed, with talented Washington Post staff writer, Rachel Nguyen, was the main reason why I didn't finish my second October blog post. And, the time that it took to deal with the fall out, both positive (the majority) and negative (the minority, but it took more time to deal with it) feedback arising from the op-ed, prevented me from finishing two November 2018 posts.
I joked to some colleagues, that I considered the invitation to write about Wikipedia and Women in STEM for the Washington Post, to be nothing more nor less than justification for all the time and effort that I have put into my academic blogging over the years. I learned how to blog in 2006 when I was director of York University's Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability, and five years ago, I incorporated science blogging assignments into my undergraduate courses. I continue to blog for many reasons, but mainly because it's a more enjoyable writing practice than sending emails and memos.
There are, of course, many benefits to science blogging:
1) As a vehicle for communicating about research: Manu E. Saunders, Meghan Duffy, Stephen Heard, Margaret Kosmala, Simon R. Leather, Terrence P. McGlynn, Jeff Ollerton and Amy L. Parachnowitsch wrote about the research benefits of ecology blogging in a 2017 review article for the journal, Royal Society Open Science, Bringing ecology blogging into the scientific fold: measuring reach and impact of science community blogs.
2) I have found blogs to be an effective means of inspiring students to practice writing about science, which is one of the main reasons that I have kept on blogging.
3) Blogs are an important vehicle for me to do public science, and also for me to reflect upon and record my diverse academic activities, which in turn provides insight for members of various publics, into life inside my not-so-ivory tower. I have directed my family and friends to my blog posts, and I have learned that students also read them. Blogging has provided a connected to colleagues who don't do the same kind of research that I do, includes Dr. Sarah Boon and Prof. Stephen Heard.
So there you have it. Sometimes, you may not have time to post because your blog led to other opportunities.