Student blogging

I don’t get many readers, but some people do find my blog and that has led to over 70k views for the past few years. I’m quite pleased with that, and it gives me the encouragement to carry on through the dry spells. However, I remember starting out and not knowing who would ever read (or even find) my blog. Now I have students who are setting out into the blogosphere and writing great material so I thought I would do my bit to send some traffic their way. Here is a quick list of their blogs, vlogs, radio shows and documentaries that I have come across recently:

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EcoSapien – my former student David has been busy working on a number of projects. EcoSapien is a YouTube show dedicated to spreading awareness about conservation and biodiversity, as well as providing resources for teachers to educate school pupils about wildlife.

North Ronaldsay Logo

North Ronaldsay – David was also the mastermind behind a three-part documentary on the Orkney Island of North Ronaldsay. The show covers the history, wildlife, and people of the island with some beautiful nature shots.

Eye On Wildlife Logo

Eye on Wildlife – Emma produces blogs and podcasts focused on wildlife biology and biological conservation. You can also see her talking about How the Internet Can End Global Poverty, from the University of Leeds TEDx event in November 2014 (video should be available here soon).

Simon the Scientist Logo

Simon the Scientist – a mixture of science writing looking at a wide range of (pretty diverse!) topics.

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In Search of Ancestors – Simon (a different Simon, just to confuse us) is currently – at the time of writing – working as a field assistant in South Africa working on a fossil hominid project. This blog catalogues his ideas on hominid evolution.

Roaming Researcher Logo

The Roaming Researcher – Dan and I worked together on his MSc dissertation project. Since finishing his MSc, Dan has been travelling the world working on a wide range of field projects and shares his experiences on his blog.

Weekly Wildlife Watch Logo

Weekly Wildlife Watch – Tania and Gabriella have been running a student radio show on wildlife ecology and conservation for some time and have managed to get some fascinating folk in for interviews. Go listen and share!

If I have missed anybody then please do let me know and I am happy to update!

Why I blog (occasionally!)

There has been a lot of discussion over the merits of academics blogging (see here, here, here, here, here and here). The positive arguments seem to be that:

  1. It’s good outreach, allowing a flexible platform for communication of science
  2. Blogs allow rapid responses and reporting on research
  3. Online profiles are important and blogs can be a strong foothold in internet-space
  4. Writing for a non-technical audience is good practice for science communication

The negative arguments seem to be that:

  1. It doesn’t count in academic terms (it’s not a paper, a grant, or a lecture)
  2. Sometimes tenure panels might see blogging as a waste of time
  3. There’s the danger of “upsetting” people.

Well I think it counts (even if my colleagues disagree), we don’t have tenure in the UK, and I don’t mind upsetting people, so there’s no good reason for me not to blog! I was letting it drop off a bit, but all this discussion has encouraged me to start up again. One of the problems is that I lacked a blogging strategy, which meant that I only shared what I (A) found interesting, and (B) found time to write about. Most of my problem was that I found interesting topics and spent too much time on too few, too niche issues. That’s going to change. Here’s the plan:

  • I’m going to post lay summaries of each of my publications.  That’s 25 to start with, and I’ll add more as I go along. I see that as a vital part of science communication, and I’ll link them back to my publications page on my website.
  • I have recently been immersing myself in Twitter which has led to my discovering a lot more interesting (and sometimes plain weird) papers and articles. This will be a key (near-bottomless) source for new ideas, but I’ll try to keep to a theme.
  • The main topicsare going to be
    • General science things
    • Entomology news and views
    • Education and technology
    • Specific posts about my research
  • Finally, I’m going to write in short form now – no more monthly long reads. 500 words max, and always with an image or video. It was the length and detail that was killing my productivity, and nobody reads those longreads, anyway!

I am hoping that that is going to provide a sustainable flow of content over the next few months, and I’ll reevaluate at Christmas.  Happy reading!


Image credit: Cortega9, CC-BY-SA 3.0, http://bit.ly/1oiVIwr

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for me and insisted that I share it.  The big milestone for 2012 was that I passed 25,000 views, which is far more than I was expecting!   I published 33 posts that totalled around 20,000 views.  That includes the top three posts for the year:

Thanks for following/sharing/accidentally finding me over the past year!

Click here to see the complete report.

I’ve been nominated for an award (along with everyone else!)

Scientific American is running its Open Lab science blog competition, where readers submit blog posts that they have come across over the last 12 months.  The best are turned into an E-book (you can find the previous editions here).  Anyway, somebody has apparently nominated my post on “Why are there imperfect mimics?” (thanks, whoever you are!).  I was excited until I saw the field of 269 other entries and realised I didn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance…  There are some amazing people who have been nominated, so you should all go and check out my vanquishers!  Oh, and the deadline is midnight EDT tonight (1st October) so…

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