Happy New Year (and the year ahead)

Welcome to 2016! Over the holidays I have been thinking about the past year, planning new projects for 2016, including taking stock of this blog and where it’s going.

Last year was terrific year for this blog – I managed to publish 69 posts and over 240,000 visitors came to Arthropod ecology (thanks in a large part to xkcd linking to my ‘you are always within three feet of a spider‘ post). Spiderday was successful, and I remain so thankful to everyone who reads, shares and comments on my posts.

Capture

The time investment for blogging is not insignificant, and I do sometimes question whether it’s worth it. I enjoy writing, and posting, but I also sometimes feel conflicted, as time blogging takes away from time doing other things. It’s also notable that engagement has been less this year (if measured by comments on posts), and all my ‘top posts’ are things I wrote years ago. Although I am posting at least once per week, I don’t invest the same amount of time with each post that I used to do. This may be because I have less time than I used to, perhaps I have less to say, or I’ve run out of energy for it (FWIW, I think it’s mostly because of time constraints). I also don’t much like feeling the (self-imposed) pressure to publish regularly. Heck – it’s supposed to be FUN!

I’ve therefore decided to shift things a little for this coming year on Arthropod Ecology. Here’s my plan:

  • Spiderday will continue, but instead of trying to post 2-3 times per month, I will instead save up the Arachnology links for a whole month, and publish Spiderday once a month – perhaps on the last Saturday of each month.
  • I will continue to use the blog to post about publications from the lab, and about laboratory news. It’s a great way to promote the work from the lab, and share exciting news.
  • I will try to publish one longer-format science post about once a month – I have a whole lot of ideas written down about things I would like to write about, and if I invest more in quality instead of quantity, I might get to some of these ideas. I’d like to get back to more in-depth treatments of topics, whether it is about arachnid research, or thoughts about teaching and higher education.
  • I’m also toying around with the idea of trying to use the blog for occasional shorter-format notes, whether it’s curious observations about nature, or as a type of ‘research notebook’ to toss out ideas and see if they float. I think a blog can be a form of journaling, and although I’ve not used in this this way before, I may give it a try.

I hope you like what’s in store for Arthropod Ecology for 2016. Thanks again to everyone who follows along, and I wish you a wonderful year ahead.

Science blogging and science policy

I’m super-excited to be part of a panel later this week*, on science blogging and science policy in Canada. It’s part of the Canadian Science Policy conference happening in Ottawa, and this particular panel is hosted by Science Borealis. This session has broader goals of understanding and strengthening the links between science communication and science policy, and also promises to be interactive and provide perspectives from panelists on effective blogs, and blog writing. It’s also exciting that a blog post will result from this workshop, so the audience can see a product resulting from attending the session (there will also be a Tweet-up in Ottawa on Thursday evening – FUN!)

But wait… Imposter syndrome approaching! Although I blog frequently, what do I know about science policy or about how my blogging activities link to science policy?

Ok, let’s start with science policy, defined by Wikipedia as

Science policy is an area of public policy which is concerned with the policies that affect the conduct of the science and research enterprise, including the funding of science, often in pursuance of other national policy goals such as technological innovation to promote commercial product development, weapons development, health care and environmental monitoring. Science policy also refers to the act of applying scientific knowledge and consensus to the development of public policies.

That helps. Sort of. I should say, the part about applying scientific knowledge to consensus and development of public policies helps, and I think this is where blogging has a big role to play. To me, blogging is a lot about dissemination of research (as a scientist in Canada) or about sharing ideas around science or higher education in Canada. For example, blogging a be writing about a recent paper, or thinking about ways to communicate science at an academic conference.

Blogging can really be an effective way to share stories about science, and when they hit the more main-stream media, this can be one small step towards linking science to policy. As an example, after blogging about our research paper on northern beetles, and in combination with a press release from my University, I believe we were able to effectively share our work with a broad audience. Since this work related directly to ecological monitoring and biodiversity conservation in the Arctic, it can perhaps more easily get into the hands of policy makers when we think about northern development in Canada, especially in the context of climate change.

Blogs can also connect to people st a more emotional level: a blog and tweet about a paper on pseudoscorpions, for example, led to a CBC story about curiosity and passion in science. We need curiously and passion for science. We need kids, school-teachers, naturalists, and retired people to have an interest in science, and enthusiasm for science. If people don’t know about what we do as scientists, how will this be fostered? And, of course, we want voters in Canada to know about our science. Votes lead to exciting shifts in the landscape of science in Canada. Blogging can help!

Finally, it’s important to be reminded that the bulk of my research funding comes from Canadians**, and as such, it is my responsibility to let people know how I spend their money! This information is so valuable and plays into politics and policy development in important ways. I want people to be aware of the wonderful science we are doing in Canada whether it is about a diabetes breakthrough or discovering and describing new species of flies.

I’ll finish with a question: what do YOU think about science blogging and science policy? I value your comments, and will bring them to the session one Friday: please share your ideas and opinions.

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*the session will be at 13:30, Friday 27 Nov.

**the bulk of my research funding comes from NSERC, paid for by taxpayers of Canada.