This post is the 12th in an ongoing guest series on my blog featuring science bloggers who recently got their start in the science blogosphere. This series of posts I've been inviting from new science bloggers, or anyone who started blogging about science in the last year or so, is helping to paint a picture of how science bloggers get their start today.
Next up in the "New to Science Blogging" series is Karen Anthony, author of Weekademia. Karen is currently a postdoctoral research associate at University College London. Her research interests include RNA therapeutics and the molecular mechanisms of neurological disorders. Karen has also developed a particular passion for teaching and mentoring in higher education and started her academic lifestyle blog, Weekademia to provide a real insight into academic life. Weekademia is inspired by a quote and/or image from her working week in academia: "it’s academia, one week at a time."
We should enjoy periods such as our postdoc years rather than fill them with worry. Here’s a couple of tips I’ve turned to when the ‘I’m not good enough’ worry sets in: Stop comparing yourself to others. Do something to improve on what your very best is. View experiences and mistakes as learning opportunities. Take an inventory of your success and compare yourself to your younger self. - Karen Anthony, Weekademia
Me: What motivated you to start blogging about science? Why did you start a blog, vs. using only other newer forms of social media like Twitter?
Karen: As an aging (although not in that sense!) postdoc, I am at that dreaded stage of academic life where we battle our way through short-term research contracts in the search for, for… what? I am ultimately seeking a teaching-focused role (the subject of my first blog post) and started blogging with the eventual aim/vision of being better engaged with past, present and future students and using blogging as a teaching tool.
I started Weekademia to educate and acquaint myself with blogging and other social media platforms, and to build a social professional network; how could I tell students to blog without having an established blog myself? More generally, for my own personal development I was keen to begin blogging to practice a more creative style of writing and to increase my visibility within and outside of academia.
On Weekademia I blog about all aspects of academic life, but it is particularly tailored to the life sciences and to my research interests. I was motivated to create a blog that documents real academic life. My hope was that it would not only interest fellow academics, but also act as a sort of e-mentor, a place for students and early career researchers to come for advice and insight into academia.
I chose the more traditional blog format as it allows me (and my students) to get into a regular writing habit, but in an informal way. In science and academia we are accustomed to reading and writing detailed content (and if not, we should be!) A blog allows you to quickly create comprehensive posts that can be instantly liked, commented on and shared. They are the start of a conversation or debate with a whole community. I do also maintain associated Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram accounts. The latter two are generally reserved for more lighthearted snippets from my academic week. I am even thinking about some sort of YouTube style vlogs for the future, so stay tuned!
Me: How did you navigate deciding where to blog and how to blog about science? Did you have an idea of what the blog would be before you started? Can you describe that and perhaps where it came from?
Karen: I had heard about WordPress from other academic bloggers and colleagues. It seemed the logical choice for me as it is so easy to use and customize, and there is online support available, which is vital if I am to get students involved.
I had envisioned the blog as documenting the highs and lows of academic life. While I had been considering starting a blog for a long time, the idea for Weekademia came from one particular ‘quote of the week’ that I felt compelled to write about. Academia is an inspiring and rewarding environment, but it can also render you speechless, frustrated and rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter. It is these moments I want to share.
Me: How do you feel your blog is evolving now, if at all?
Karen: It is very early days, and the blog will evolve with me as I navigate through my academic career. I hope the blog develops into a community with regular student and guest writers, a place for discussion and advice on all things academic. I also aim for this blog to be a launch pad for spin-off course and research blogs for students and researchers alike.
Me: How you are finding your niche in the science blogosphere? Have other science bloggers influenced you or your blog direction, and if so how?
Karen: Again it’s early days. I would certainly fit into the academic lifestyle blogging niche if that’s what we are calling it, and I don’t think it is particularly large. Weekademia is unique because rather than purposefully writing about "hot topics," my posts are personal and inspired by quotes from my working week. My posts might be inspired by a controversial subject or something rather silly like comparing abstracts to Easter eggs. This means that other blogs do not particularly influence my content per se, but they have certainly influenced my style, ideas and the directions my blogging could take. I do follow blogs and stories via the Times Higher Education and The Guardian Higher Education Network sites (as well as Twitter) which keep me abreast of the trending issues in academia, which if relevant, I may work into my posts from time to time.
Me: Please describe any other experiences you have had in starting a science blog, or being a new science blogger online and finding your "place," that you feel have been relevant to the direction or content of your blog now.
Karen: I have been pleasantly surprised by how supportive the blogging community is, particularly on WordPress and Twitter. Weekademia has sparked great discussion among my peers, who are a key audience; I therefore value their feedback and already have some great ideas for guest posts and expert round-ups in the future.
Me: Are there any struggles to being a "new" science blogger?
Karen: Time. As a newbie I probably labor over posts much longer than seasoned pros, plus the initial excitement hasn’t worn off yet and I have become addicted to the WordPress stats page! I also think many struggle to stop worrying about what colleagues and peers will think, a type of imposter syndrome feeling if you will, that "I’m not a writer and not expert enough." Additionally science bloggers might well be bound by research confidentiality agreements and struggle to strike a balance that does not ruffle any feathers with employers etc. This is probably why several choose to be anonymous, something I did consider myself but quickly realized that it wouldn’t fit with my long-term aims for Weekademia.
More posts in the "New to Science Blogging" series: