Two years on: what science blogging has done for me

S ShailesThis week marks the second birthday of this blog, which I started while I was in the final year of study for a PhD. At the time I was considering my next steps after finishing my studies. I wasn’t entirely sure what direction to take so I started blogging to give me more practice at writing and more experience of communicating science to non-specialist audiences. In doing so, I realised that I enjoy science writing much more than I ever expected.

During a PhD it is very easy to become so focussed on the tiny details of your research project that it is difficult to see the bigger picture, especially when experiments aren’t going to plan, or while writing a difficult passage of your thesis. Blogging gave me an excuse to step back and think about other areas of science that interested me so that I could face the difficulties in my PhD with a fresher perspective. It also reminded me that—although I loved my research project—I also had much broader interests in science that I had been neglecting.

Just like any skill, the more you practice writing, the easier it gets. By the time I came to write my thesis I was much more confident in my ability to write and I was much more disciplined. Before I started blogging, my writing efforts were usually peppered with large periods of procrastination in between short periods of actual progress. Now, I find it much easier to sit down and get writing and if I find a particular section is tricky to write, I will skip it and come back to it later. I’m convinced this made writing my PhD thesis much less painful and, in the end, it was one of the best times of my PhD.

Blogging has given me new opportunities, introduced me to new people, and taken my career in a new direction I would never have anticipated. Two years ago, if you had suggested that I should consider a career in science writing I would have dismissed it as being “not for me”. But here I am, working for a scientific journal and spending all day editing and writing content aiming to explain scientific research to non-specialists.

My main motivation for blogging—to practice writing—still remains. Now that I write for a living, the main advantage of running my own blog is that I have the opportunity to write about whatever I like, whenever I like. However, in some ways, it is harder to maintain the blog now than when I worked in research. Gone are the days where I could write a post inbetween experimental work in the lab. Now, I have a job with more regular working hours and so I can only write in the evenings or at weekends. Although I can write on my train journey to work, the lack of internet access means I need to have already researched the idea beforehand. The way that blogging fits into my life has changed, but I still enjoy writing it just as much.

Mystery flowering plant in Soma, The Gambia

Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) in Soma, The Gambia. Thanks to Steven Dodsworth for identifying it for me.

Plant Scientist reaches a wider audience than I ever expected it to. For that I need to thank you for reading, sharing and commenting on the posts. I also want to thank my guest contributors for providing different perspectives and interesting stories that broaden the content of the blog. Keep reading for more stories about plants, microbes and experiences of life in science!

I am always happy to receive guest posts so if you are interested in writing something for Plant Scientist please get in touch.

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4 thoughts on “Two years on: what science blogging has done for me

  1. You have misspelled the Latin name of your mystery plant. It is Catharanthus roseus, in the family Apocyanaceae.

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