If you’re reading our blog regularly, we imagine it’s likely that you’ve toyed with the idea of submitting a post yourself. But perhaps you thought you wouldn’t have enough time, or that the commitment to writing would take away from your thesis work. We editors are here to share our experiences with writing as an ECR, and to lay out the pros and cons of writing as a side hustle. We hope to encourage new writers to try out blogging for any platform–if you’re interested in writing with us specifically, you can reach us at [email protected].
“Working with various editors over the years has strengthened both my writing and the way I work.”
I was once taught that the best way to improve your writing is to read good writing. I now believe that another great way to improve your writing is to write regularly. The blogging I’ve done in graduate school has helped me never stop flexing my writing muscles. This has then served me well when I’m tasked with more formal writing situations. And the ability to work with an editor gave me the regular feedback I needed to spot common mistakes I was making and avoid boring cliches; working with various editors over the years has strengthened both my writing and the way I work. Writing is like running a race; if you haven’t been training regularly, it’s going to be really difficult to perform well when the race comes around. Blogging helps me keep my writing skills from ever getting too out of shape, and then whenever I need to crank out an abstract or do some other writing for my graduate studies, I’m ready to run.
“To read and write in different contexts and for different audiences has enriched my research performance.”
While pursuing my PhD, I came upon the opportunity to write a course book in public health. This was an opportunity I simply could not resist and I do not regret this decision, despite having to write in the little time I had to spare when not working on my thesis. To write in a more loose and popular way was a real challenge and the editorial process a new experience compared to the strict scientific way of working. This got me thinking of writing about research instead of not just performing it myself. Here, the scientific blogs like the ones handled by PLOS are a great way to do this and at the same time sharpen the communicative skills so necessary in order to describe my own research outside academia. This also helped me in my a role as a peer reviewer for scientific journals together with any editorial experience from this blog. As argued by others, science blogs are still an effective platform to reach out and communicate science, something that ought to be recognized within academia as well. While many universities have mandatory PhD courses in academic and scientific writing, students are seldom encouraged to write for blogs despite that it is a great way for ECRs to sharpen these skills. Hopefully, writing and communicating science in blogs, newspapers, and magazines some day will be credited as an important aspect of a research career. Until then, we can continue to write about and share our experiences as ECRs coming from different parts of the world but with the scientific endeavor in common.
We’d like to close out with our top five pros and cons of blogging as an ECR. What are yours?
- Blogging about science gets me reading more literature than I might do otherwise.
- My creative writing skills never get too out of shape.
- I gain experience communicating with an editor in a professional and timely manner.
- Blogging helps you network, since it gives you a way to meet and interact with other scientists.
- It can foster a future career in scientific writing.
- It does require discipline to make time to write, and this isn’t easy.
- It may take time away from research writing and thus hard to explain to your PI, but you should remember that the experience will give you other skills that are important to gain in graduate school.
- Science communication still not prioritized by mentors.
- Blogging can be time consuming from time to time.
- It can put a pressure to deliver new posts.
While making time for blogging and coming up with good ideas is admittedly challenging, we can attest that the skills and experience you gain are totally worth your effort. Working through the cons we’ve listed will help you hone the ‘soft skills’ of time management, working with an editor, peer-reviewing, and more. Again, if you’d like to give blogging a shot, hit us up at [email protected]!
Featured Image: Healtcare.gov user experience, after Andreas Vesalius. The image belongs to the flickr account of Mike Licht and is used under a Creative Commons CC license Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)