Manufacturology turned two months. For me, becoming a blogger also meant that I had to learn to become a blog reader. Yes, I did visit a couple of blogs occasionally before I started my own, but none in my own field of expertise. Now suddenly I realised that I must keep up with what others in my niche are writing, something that I’m still struggling with.
Why did I want to start my own blog? The question is relevant, because I must confess that for a long time I was quite negative about the whole social networking/Web 2.0 thing. As a matter of fact I know of nobody else in my professional network who runs a blog. And I doubt that any of my colleagues have read mine.
Reading and writing about blogging appears to be a hot topic for bloggers. I came across this post by John Dupuis, where he makes the point that research blogging can build your reputation, but it may not necessarily help improve your career. Martin Rundkvist thinks of his scientific publishing as the equivalent of what Stephen Jay Gould referred to as his “technical work”, probably not read by many, while blogging permits him to reach a wider audience. Apparently, there are also those who believe that serious researchers have no time for blogging.
I suspect that those who hope that blogging will boost their career as researchers will be disappointed. Instead, I want to suggest another reason why you may want to consider running your own research blog: Writing informally but publicly about your research generates new ideas and helps to improve your logic of reasoning.
Consider why you want to present your research at conferences and at informal presentations. I’ve spent the last few years writing research papers. While doing so, I’ve found that the occasional presentations that I make, at conferences, but more importantly, at my university and at companies that I work with, are great for testing and evolving new ideas.
Often, I return to the same topic over a number of presentations. I reuse some material, but I never give exactly the same presentation twice. Every time, I find that my previous talk led to new insights or ideas that improve the logic of my argumentation. I collect more empirical data, and after some time I have enough material and a logic that I can elaborate in more formal writing.
It seems to me that blogging can serve a similar purpose. It forces you to use a clear logic, especially since the typical blog post is fairly short — usually less than 1000 words, often less than 500. You have to be concise and clear, while at the same time you’re totally free to explore those ideas that interest you most for the moment.
So, returning to the initial question, can blogging boost your research career? Perhaps not directly, but I suspect that it can help you indirectly. Because subjecting your ideas to public scrutiny is a great way to develop your own reasoning. And its fun too…