What is a blog…?
An online diary, with entries (known as posts) written in reverse chronological order. It is possible to post text as well as embed other content (such as images or videos or tweets from your Twitter account). Those reading a blog can often use the comments feature to interact with the blog writer (known as a blogger) and other people (though some blogs have comments disabled).
Anatomy of a blog
Blog post: Displays in reverse chronological order on the blog home page. Can be listed in various widgets and you can control how many posts display at a time. Can assign categories and tags to posts.
Blog page: Is a static page. You cannot assign categories or tags to them and they are not listed in date order (though you can control the order in which they display).
Categories: terms assigned to a blog post to enable you to group your blog posts into general related areas. It makes sense to limit the number of categories you use.
Tags: very specific term used to describe content in your blog post. You can use as many as you like.
Confused? Categories vs Tags
Comments: Enable people to comment on your blog post and build a discussion. See manage comments for further information.
Trackbacks: a way of acknowledging other blogs, a bit like referencing a journal article. Allow you to notify other blogging systems that you have linked to them. See the WordPress.com trackbacks page for instructions. If you link to a WordPress blog, then this notification happens automatically via a pingback.
Pingbacks: when you link to another WordPress blog post, it tells the blog post you are linking to that you have linked. It creates a connection between two related blog posts. See the WordPress.com pingbacks page for further information.
WHY WOULD I READ A BLOG?
Reading blogs are a quick way of keeping up to date on current issues. They might focus on a particular research area, or on general issues of interest (e.g. open access). If a particular researcher is blogging, they might incorporate some science, some current issues and some information about the blogger. As mentioned above they also enable interaction between the blogger and their community. It is possible to monitor blogs (and other web pages) via an RSS feed (also known as a web feed or news feed).
WHY WOULD I WRITE A BLOG?
Writing a blog (known as blogging) enables the informal communication of science (or business) to a wide audience (both expert and non-expert). Blogging can help you to improve your writing and encourages you to think about communicating to non-specialists (who may be other scientists but not necessarily in your field) as well as members of the public.
Blogs are easy to set up (you don’t need to be a techie) and blog software is often free and web-based. Some software (e.g. the locally hosted version of WordPress) enables you to use plugins to make writing science easier (e.g. LaTeX plugin). It is possible to post content anywhere, anytime – be it desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone – as long as you have access to the internet. Posts can be made public or private. A blog can also be linked to other parts of your social media identity by way of widgets and other code (e.g. your Twitter account can be linked to your blog so that when you tweet about something it will appear in a Twitter feed on your blog).
The one thing you do need to blog is time to commit to it. While it’s not necessary to blog every day or even a few times a week, ideally you would blog on a regular basis to encourage your community to have a reason to follow you. If you prefer, you could set up a group blog, so that keeping it current doesn’t rely solely on one person.
Why blog? Duncan Green provides a very interesting justification: Why academics (and students) should take blogging/social media seriously
This case study is an example of how a science writer (Ed Yong) blogged at a level that a non-specialist could understand. He was also easy to contact and as such was able to connect scientists and a farmer who had an unusual chicken.
“How did Sanders find me? ‘My search brought up several related blogs and articles but yours was the only one that was easy to read yet contained enough technical information (and diagrams) to answer my questions,’ he says. “’You also were the easiest to contact.’ ” (Yong, 2010)
How is blogging being used in science, BUSINESS and/or higher education?
- As part of the actual research
- Parallel to research
- To engage in science/business communication
- To engage in scientific/business/higher education issues
Or a combination of all of the above!
Most blogs tend to be a combination of these things. It depends on the field and how they communicate. It also depends on the blogger and what they want to say.
- Reciprocal Space (Prof. Stephen Curry, Professor of Structural Biology)
- Medical Centre: News from the world of medicine from a medical professor in London (Prof. Azeem Mahjeed, Professor of Primary Care, and Head of the Department of Primary Care & Public Health, Imperial College London)
- Leaves on the line (Prof. Andrew Jaffe, Physics)
- A Chemical Education (Tom Phillips, PhD student, Plastic Electronics Doctoral Training Centre)
- Quantum Tunnel (Dr Jesus Rogel-Salazar, Physics)
- Henry Rzepa: Chemistry with a Twist (Prof. Henry Rzepa, Chemistry)
- Green Tea and Velociraptors (Jon Tennant, PhD student, Earth Science and Engineering)
Imperial group blogs
- Experimental Particle Physicists at Imperial College London
- Refractive Index: Reflections on science communication from Imperial College London
Interviews with Imperial researcher blogGERS
How do I find blogs (to read)?
Discovery of blogs is often via serendipity, you follow a particular blogger and they highlight other useful blogs. Also keep an eye on the blogroll of your favourite blogs. It is also possible to use blog/social media specific search tools such as Blog Search.
There are also a number of scientific blog networks that aggregate many science blogs, such as Nature.com blogs, Blogs at Scitable by Nature.com, Occam’s Typewriter, PLOS Blogs or SciLogs. Or check out Imperial’s staff blogging page. Imperial students are also blogging. Finally, some of the national newspapers have blogs, for example: the Guardian Business Blog, Guardian Science Blogs, the Guardian Higher Education Blogs Network and Blogs at the FT.
Legal / ethical issues
These tips should help:
- Embed links rather than content
- Do you want your content hosted by Imperial or by a third party host
- Check any licensing information about the original content (be it research paper, video, blog post or other format)
- License your blog content with an appropriate Creative Commons license
- Be careful of confidentiality – do you have the right to post particular data
- Develop (and display) a procedure for dealing with complaints.
- Take a look at the list of questions posed in the Online Research Identity module
- and finally…use your common sense!
Watch this video, featuring a number of researchers (either currently at or formerly of Imperial College London) talking about their experience in dealing with the legal and/or ethical issues of using tools and technologies.
Contribute a post to the Participants’ blog on your thoughts on blogs and blogging.
If you would like to set up your own blog, then follow the directions below:
SETTING UP A BLOG
Set up an account with a free blogging software provider, select a template and get started. You can follow our Getting started with WordPress guidelines or choose another blogging provider (such as Bloglines). If you like, you could start an Imperial branded WordPress blog.
Next, customise your blog (adding an image, setting up the sidebar with widgets), identify a blog or two in your field you would like to follow and add them to your blogroll.
Finally, start writing! Write your first blog post about the opening workshop. Your second and third blog posts will be about the two ‘optional’ modules you choose.