This post is the second in a new guest blog series on my blog (fun!) featuring science bloggers who recently got their start in the science blogosphere. This series of posts I'll be inviting from new science bloggers, or anyone who started blogging about science in the last year or so, will help paint a picture of how science bloggers get their start today.
*If you want to contribute to this series, and you recently (within the last year or so) started any form of science blogging, e-mail me at pbrow11[at]tigers.lsu.edu. You can either write a free-form post, or I'll send you a list of Q&A questions to guide you. Thanks!
Second up in the "New to Science Blogging" series is Stephanie Rankin, author of the forensic science blog Locard's Lab. Stephanie currently works as a research analyst in a UK university, carrying out the necessary laboratory work and analysis for various research projects. Aside from this, she participates in a number of science communication events and finds enjoyment in making science exciting and accessible to everyone. With a background in forensic science, she launched Locard's Lab, a blog rounding up research and news in forensic science, in November 2014.
It soon came to light that police had been following the wrong scent, and suspicion soon fell elsewhere… cotton swabs. It eventually emerged that the DNA recovered from all of these crime scenes belonged to none other than an unsuspecting woman working in a swab factory in Bavaria, a factory which happened to have numerous Eastern European woman on its staff (at least part of the serial killer profile was right). And so the mystery of the Phantom of Heilbronn was solved. Investigators had been collecting samples from numerous crime scenes using cotton swabs inadvertently contaminated with the DNA of a slightly careless factory worker. No doubt there were some red faces the day this little tidbit of information came to light! - Forensic Fails: DNA Evidence and the Phantom of Heilbronn, by Stephanie Rankin
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?
Stephanie: I've been involved in various forms of science communication, but mostly face-to-face events. I love communicating and writing about science, so taking the path into science blogging was a clear step. I love the casual nature of blogging. You don't have to be stiff and overly-professional, but instead you can tailor your words to help people better understand what you're trying to say and make it interesting and accessible to your desired audience. While other forms of social media (such as Twitter) have their own benefits, they can be quite restricting. Who wants to be limited to 140 characters! My blog, Locard's Lab, focuses on research and news in forensic science. This is something that I wanted to see more of online, so I suppose that's ultimately what encouraged me to begin blogging about science.
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?
Stephanie: I'm a big fan of blog-hosting sites such as WordPress, because they allow anyone to easily set up a platform to share their knowledge and opinions. So choosing to use this as a blogging platform didn't require much thought. Before I started, I did have a certain idea about what the blog would be. I started this blog to share interesting research I came across in journals that hadn't really been transferred into a more enjoyable reading experience yet. But unsurprisingly, my plans for the blog are rapidly changing.
Me: How do you feel your blog is evolving now, if if all?
Stephanie: I think at the moment the content of the blog is what is changing most. As I mentioned, I intended to really just cover pieces of interesting research I stumbled upon. But I inevitably come across all kinds of other items that make me think "Well I just have to blog about that!" I have a few guest bloggers in the pipeline too, which is not something I initially considered when establishing the blog. But this has come as a pleasant surprise, because of course that's an entirely different benefit of blogging - the opportunity to work with other writers.
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?
Stephanie: There is a huge network of people throughout social media interested in reading about forensic science research and news pieces, so despite only being active for a few months, Locard's Lab has already received a lot of positive interest. I wouldn't say any other bloggers have had an influence on my content, because actually I don't really know of any blogs covering the subject of forensic science. But I follow an awfully long list of various science blogs (it's amazing I get any work done!), so simply through reading the work of other people, even if it is in a completely unrelated field, I no doubt develop ideas and thoughts for the improvement of my own blog. There are so many established science bloggers out there that I can learn a lot from, so who knows how they will influence my own writing in the future.
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.
Stephanie: I think this is a great time for people to start blogging. Once upon a time reaching people through your blog was very reliant on search engines and word of mouth, which wasn't always very effective. But at this point in time, social media sites such as Twitter allow bloggers to share their posts in an instant with people worldwide. It's incredible to watch how fast one of your articles can spread - that's a real advert for the powers of social media and blogging in science communication.
Stephanie saw a topic niche gap, and jumped at the opportunity to fill it!
"This is something that I wanted to see more of online, so I suppose that's ultimately what encouraged me to begin blogging about [forensic] science."