Science blogging: Breaking the “silicon ceiling”

Over at her new consolidated blog I was lost but now I live here, Shirley Wu has a thoughtful piece about the coming changes in academic publishing, the institutional disincentives against engaging in barrier-free publishing (e.g blogging), and one clever way of breaking what she terms “the silicon ceiling”. It will be of particular interest if (like me) you’re interested in promoting and participating in open science.

I echo many of Shirley’s thoughts regarding the attitude of older/more established scientists about “frivolous” activities like blogging — my last two advisors are benignly mystified by my involvement in this activity, and I suspect that (if they thought I’d listen) they would advise me to spend “more time at the bench” (as though the two things traded off in that simple way). Like many science bloggers, I blog in part because I feel like it will do my field some good, and in part because I feel some compulsion to do it. Of course I hope that someday it will “pay off” in a professional sense but, as Shirley points out, the Powers That Be™ are pretty happy with the way things are, and they’re generally suspicious of activities that don’t fit into the standard model of careerized, professional science.

In the meantime, some things will continue to change slowly, one retirement party at a time.



  1. “…one retirement party at a time.” 😀

    I totally forgot that another reason we blog is for “therapy” – to express ourselves, to be heard, to share what we’re thinking or what we’ve learned. So blogging could improve the mental health of scientists! And happier scientists = better scientists?

    Luckily, I have an advisor who is tech-crazy and loves incorporating new technologies into his life and research, and I think many of the professors in my field of bioinformatics are similar. He’s also very competitive (like many scientists), so this challenge is perfect for him. 😉

  2. I’ll tell you that there are many members of the Powers That Be who are paying attention to blogs and blogging. And I can positively say that it has benefited me quit a bit. Keep it up.

  3. Good to hear it, Alex. I confess to having also benefited professionally from blogging. For instance, I’m sitting in a meeting right now, planning a major project with colleagues I never would have met if not for the blog.

    So far I haven’t experienced a lot of attention or approbation from senior scientists, but your testimony gives me — and should give us all — hope. Thanks for sharing your positive experience.

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